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Curtin University
National Drug Research Institute

Preventing Harmful Drug Use In Australia

Research priority:

Social studies of addiction concepts

Concepts of 'addiction' vary across time and place. Focusing on the field of alcohol and other drug (AOD) use, this program of research takes addiction as its central object of study, mapping and monitoring changes in addiction concepts and language in Australia and in select sites around the world. Key questions the research program explores include:

  • How is the meaning of addiction re-made in debates about new drugs and new issues such as the rise of online drug markets or 'the new recovery'?
  • How do changes in terminology (such as in debates about 'dependence' versus 'addiction') affect the way AOD policy is designed and implemented?
  • How is addiction depicted in film, television and other popular culture and how do these depictions relate to policy, law and service provision?
  • How do individuals experience diagnoses of addiction? How do these experiences, whether positive or negative, inform other aspects of their lives?
  • How do new developments in knowledge such as the rise of neuroscientific accounts of behaviour and changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders impact on understandings of addiction and responses to it?
  • How do medical and public health definitions of addiction relate to legal responses to drug use and vice versa?
  • How do public understandings of addiction and representations in the newsmedia contribute to policy and practice?

Drawing on a range of social scientific research methods such as in-depth interviewing, policy analysis, cultural studies, ethnographic observation and international comparative collaborative techniques, this program of research directly informs policy, and helps develop clearer models and more productive approaches for improving AOD-related health and social outcomes in Australia.

Visit the program web site: