Dr. Shana Harris is a cultural and medical anthropologist specializing in drug use, “addiction,” and health politics and practice in Latin America and the United States. She received her Ph.D. in medical anthropology jointly from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco in 2012.  She was a National Institutes of Health-funded Postdoctoral Fellow in the Behavioral Science Training in Drug Abuse Research Program at the National Development and Research Institutes in New York City before joining the UCF faculty in 2015.

Her dissertation and postdoctoral research ethnographically examined drug use and the politics of intervention around harm reduction in Argentina. Her current research focuses on medical travel and psychedelic-based drug addiction treatment in Mexico. Dr. Harris’s work has been supported by several institutions, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and has been published in top journals in her field, such as Medical Anthropology QuarterlyHuman Organization, International Journal of Drug Policy, and Substance Use & Misuse.

Research Specialization


Cultural and medical anthropology; drug use and “addiction”; global and public health; health politics and interventions; anthropology of science, technology, and medicine; Latin America; United States

Current Research:

Dr. Harris’s current ethnographic research focuses on the therapeutic use of psychedelics, particularly the utilization of ibogaine for drug treatment in Mexico. Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in several plant species, most notably a rainforest shrub native to West Central Africa known as Tabernanthe iboga. It has been used for “addiction interruption,” as way to reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opiates, alcohol, and other drugs. Ibogaine has been illegal in the United States since the 1960s.  Due to its illegality, numerous centers in Mexico have been established that cater to a primarily American clientele looking for drug treatment with ibogaine. Since 2015, Dr. Harris has examined the use of ibogaine in several such centers in Baja California, Mexico, to understand the experience of undergoing drug treatment with this substance as well as seeking out and receiving this alternative treatment outside of the United States.

Dr. Harris’s current collaborative research focuses on harm reduction programs in Florida. As part of UCF’s Harm Reduction Research Initiative and the Florida Harm Reduction Research Collaborative, she works with scholars from multiple fields, including anthropology, medicine, public health, and prevention science, to examine how syringe services programs, overdose prevention interventions, and other harm reduction programs are being implemented across the state.

Doctoral, Postdoctoral, and Other Research:

In her doctoral dissertation, Dr. Harris researched drug use and the politics and practice of harm reduction in Argentina. Based on 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Buenos Aires and Rosario between 2006 and 2008, her dissertation traced how harm reduction was adopted and implemented by local non-governmental organizations and select government agencies since the mid-1990s.  She illustrated how this public health model influences the ways in which drug use, drug users, and drug user health are understood and approached institutionally in contemporary Argentina.

Additionally, she has conducted research on several other drug use-related topics, such as heroin injection and HIV/AIDS in Colombia, opiate addiction treatment programs in the San Francisco Bay Area, recreational gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) use in Northern California, prescription drug diversion in the eastern United States, and heroin use and recovery in Scotland.

Download CV