Lee Hoffer, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Psychiatry
College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Hoffer is a cultural / medical anthropologist who does research on illegal drug use and substance use disorder. His work has informed a range of topics, including; HIV risk behaviors of drug injectors, understanding the misuse of medications, the diagnosis of substance use disorders, drug policy and community-based intervention studies. His research currently focuses on understanding, monitoring, and predicting trends in drug use, as well as studying how illicit drug markets, and drug acquisition, influences the lives of people who use drugs. In addition to his research endeavors, Dr. Hoffer has on-going collaborations with and provides technical support services to local community health care providers seeking to reduce the harms associated with drug use.

Curriculum Vitae

Social Simulation in Cultural Anthropology Research Website


  • In 2017, Dr. Hoffer co-authored a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report (funded by the FDA) entitled: Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic: Balancing Societal and Individual Benefits and Risks of Prescription Opioid Use. This consensus committee provided the FDA with the most up-to-date data on the opioid crisis, pain management science, and made recommendations on how pain medications should be evaluated. (Read what is being said about the report here)
    • Hear Dr. Hoffer being interviewed on the report findings here.
  • Since 2002, Dr. Hoffer’s research has involved synthesizing 1) agent-based computational modeling techniques, 2) ethnographic research, and 3) epidemiology to offer new tools for policymakers and researchers to understand drug use and epidemics. (See link for more information)
  • In 2000, Dr. Hoffer conducted an eighteen-month ethnographic case-study of a heroin dealing network in Denver, Colorado. This research is detailed in his book Junkie Business: The Evolution and Operation of a Heroin Dealing Network (Thompson-Wadsworth Press, 2006).

Research Information

Research Interests

Media about Dr. Hoffer's Research

Arthur Evenchik. (Fall 2012/Winter 2013). Street-Level Anthropologyart|sci magazine, College of Arts and Sciences, CWRU, vol. 9 (1).

Media citing Dr. Hoffer's Research

The Wrong Way to Fight the Opioid Crisis – The New Yorker

Report: Rethinking the “Drug Dealer” (see link on this page) – Drug Policy Alliance

How Digital Drug Users Could Help to Halt the US Opioid Epidemic – Nature

Following Heroin’s Path from Mexico to the Midwest – The Washington Post

How Mexican Drug Cartels are Fueling America’s Deadly Heroin Epidemic – The Week

How Business of Fentanyl Controls Ohio’s Opioid Crisis – The Columbus Dispatch

Sample publication 

Research Projects

Research project

  • Researching the Social Dynamics of a Local Methamphetamine Market (NIH, NIDA, R01) 2010-2016 (Abstract )
  • Merging Agent-based Modeling Techniques and Ethnography: A New Analytic Tool for Studying Illicit Drug Use Behaviors, Markets and Economies (NSF) 2008-2011(Abstract)
  • Evaluating the Social Structure of a Local Heroin Market (NIH, NIDA, R21) 2005-2008 (Abstract)
  • A Heroin Dealing Network: Asymmetric Power and HIV Risk (NIH, NIDA, F31) 2000-2002 (Abstract)

Classes taught 

(Fall) Economic Anthropology (Link to course description coming soon)

(Fall) Ethnographic & Qualitative Research Methods (Link to course description)

(Spring) Illegal Drugs and Society (Link to course description)

(Spring) Graduate Seminar – Ethics & Ethnography (Link to course description coming soon)

Graduate Trainees 

Allison Schlosser

Kelley Kampman
Hannah Toneff