Recent Publications in Contemporary Drug Problems: Europe Edition

Editor’s Note: Frequent readers may be familiar with the blog’s ongoing promotion of new, relevant dissertation research, but periodically we also highlight work published in journals and other peer-reviewed outlets. Each of the articles below appeared in recent issues of the journal Contemporary Drug Problems and concern topics of interest in countries across Europe. All titles contain links to the respective articles. Enjoy!

“Addiction in Europe, 1860s-1960s: Concepts and Responses in Italy, Poland, Austria, and the United Kingdom”

Virginia Berridge, Alex Mold, Franca Beccaria, Irmgard Eisenbach-Stangl, Grazyna Herczynska, Jacek Moskalewicz, Enrico Petrilli, Suzanne Taylor

Abstract: Concepts play a central part in the formulation of problems and proposed solutions to the use of substances. This article reports the initial results from a cross European historical study, carried out to a common methodology, of the language of addiction and policy responses in two key periods, 1860–1930 and the 1950s and 1960s. It concludes that the language of addiction was varied and nonstandard in the first period. The Anglo-American model of inebriety did not apply across Europe but there was a common focus on theories of heredity and national degeneration. After World War II, there was a more homogenous language but still distinct national differences in emphasis and national interests and policy responses to different substances. More research will be needed to deepen understanding of the conditions under which these changes took place and the social and policy appeal of disease theories.

“Making Up the ‘Drug-Abusing Immigrant’: Knowledge Production in Swedish Social Work and Drug Treatment Contexts, 1960s-2011”

Nordgren, Johan

Abstract: In social work, drug treatment, and government contexts in Sweden, numerous attempts have been made to construct a new kind of client and patient: the “drug-abusing immigrant.” I trace these developments from the 1960s to 2011 through an analysis of publications about “drug abuse among immigrants.” The empirical material consists of a broad range of publications produced on this topic in social work, drug treatment, and government contexts both nationally and in local municipal settings. I use Hacking’s analytical approach to “making up people” as a way of analyzing how knowledge production resulted in certain descriptions of the kind of client/patient categorized as a “drug-abusing immigrant.” Four themes were central to discussions of this kind: the introduction of new drugs and ways of using them by immigrants, the intermingling of ethnic drug use patterns, the need to target Iranians in relation to opiate use, and descriptions of drug-using immigrants as vulnerable. Drug use among immigrants was a phenomenon mainly discussed at local levels of social work and drug treatment and did not develop into a national political problem. It seems that a perceived rapid increase in immigration in Sweden during the mid-1980s acted as a catalyst for the focus on “drug abuse among immigrants.” The “drug-abusing immigrant” category should be seen as an administrative category and the process of making it up as ultimately a “failed” one. The category was not adopted by those so categorized and subsequently declined in use during the 2000s. A recent focus on drug use among “unaccompanied minors” might be seen as a new attempt to make up certain immigrants as a specific kind of “drug abuser.”

“‘Problematic Intoxications’: Conceptualizing ‘Abuse’ of Illicit Drugs in Postwar Social Treatment Legislation in Finland”

Kerstin Stenius

Abstract: This article analyzes conceptualizations of “drug abuse” in the Finnish postwar parliamentary committees and debates that, in 1961, resulted in the first law for treatment of both alcohol and drug abuse problems. How was the abuse of narcotic drugs viewed as a new problem that merited new solutions? How was abuse of drugs regarded as similar to abuse of alcohol? And how were the conceptual problems solved in this process? The analysis is influenced by theories of conceptual history and focuses on committee reports, parliamentary debates, and postwar research. While abuse of narcotic drugs was a much smaller problem, it was conceived of as more dramatic and, through intoxication, linked to similar social problems as alcohol abuse. The focus on intoxication as a common denominator is shown in the later conceptual development in the substance abuse field in Finland: “päihdehuolto” = care of intoxicant users.