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ID: 220

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Research

Topics: Drug Policy Reform and Advocacy

Presenting author: Suzanne Fraser

Presenting author biography:

Professor Suzanne Fraser is Australian Research Council Future Fellow and leader of the Social Studies of Addiction Concepts research program at the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University. She has published widely on drug use in society. Her most recent book is Habits: Remaking Addiction (2014) with Moore and Keane.

How do Australian, Canadian and Swedish policymakers, service providers and advocates frame addiction and what does this mean for policy?

Suzanne Fraser

Concepts of addiction differ across time and place, shaping policies and other responses in turn. This presentation is based on an international research project currently exploring this variation and change in concepts of addiction. Intended to form part of an HRI Conference workshop entitled ‘Addiction concepts in policy, law and practice’* the presentation's aim is to understand how both nationally specific and internationally shared ideas produce and constrain alcohol and other drug policy solutions.

The presentation draws on interview data collected in three national sites, Australia (n=40 interviews), Canada (n=20) and Sweden (n=20). The interviews were semi-structured in format. They were digitally recorded, transcribed and coded using NVivo software.

The presentation identifies much shared ground in concepts of addiction across the three national sites. For example, all sites articulate ambivalence about addiction, presenting it both as a genuine diagnosable condition and a pragmatically useful but empty label. Similarities in assumptions about national alcohol and other drug policy publics were also identified, notably that such publics often constrain effective policymaking. Lastly, a great deal of overlap was identified in the three countries’ approaches to the role of drugs per se, and the role of ‘addicted’ subjects (including the brain), in producing the ‘problem’ of addiction, and its solutions.

Despite significant political and social welfare differences across the three national sites, many assumptions about drug users, addiction and alcohol and other drug policy publics were shared. The presentation closes by calling for greater scrutiny of these assumptions and by posing alternatives to allow more creative, just and effective policy solutions.

*Please consider this abstract individually if the workshop proposal is not successful.