Doing drugs policy: narratives of participation in the development of a critical drug theory
Introduction It is a well-documented and a historical fact that human beings have ingested certain substances in order to change their perceptions of reality for centuries, if not millennia (RSA, 2007; Nutt, 2015; Bancroft, 2009, ch.2; Bennet & Holloway, 2010, ch.2). However, it was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that a serious effort was made to outlaw certain drugs for use other than medical, through international and national conventions and frameworks. The regulation of certain drugs has resulted in a policy framework to manage the governance of drug policy interventions, and it is the development of this framework, and participation of drug consumers (policy stakeholders) within this framework that the thesis explores, and critiques. Methods Using interpretive policy analysis as an overarching research design, the thesis explores and critiques the development of the concept of ‘problem drug use’, and seeks to unpick this concept using Carol Bacchis ‘What’s the Problem Represented to Be’ (WPR) approach (Bacchi, 2009). In doing so it highlights the master narratives framing both drug use, and drug user participation within policy development, in Scotland. Furthermore, as a result of using the WPR approach to analyse the data, a new critical theory entitled critical drug theory (CDT) is developed. This theory sits alongside other critical theories such as critical race theory, by focussing on the narratives of silenced or marginalised.Results The narratives surrounding drug use define the process by which the participation of stakeholders is incorporated into policy making. More specifically, the narratives of drug harm and the medico/legal structures which surround problematic drug use mean that participation is focused on a small section of the drug using population, namely problematic drug users. This focus is, in part, a result of systemic narratives that have been used to justify policies and practices which disproportionately affect those whose ethnicity, social class, gender, religious, ideological and political viewpoints do not fit into the dominant narrative. Critical drug theory is grounded in critical thought with the underlying premise that the foundations of drug policy, national and international, are based on ideological reasoning that is often used to suppress and silence those who seek to challenge the status quo. Subjecting policies to critique and critical evaluation, such as research into the impact drug laws have on individuals and society (as opposed to the impact drug use has), should be advocated, along with public engagement on the complexity of drug use, pleasure and harm.