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1. 3 Objectives PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dolf Tops   
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 00:00

1. 3 Objectives

My first aim was to describe the processes that resulted in different practices to control drugs and drug use in Sweden and the Netherlands. Eventually it seemed more important to examine how contextual factors had contributed to the salient features of, the drug policies as depicted in the introduction to this chapter. The investigation ended in an ambition to demonstrate how national strategies on drug control are influenced and constrained by historically grown contextual factors and is based on a hypothesis: traditions of formal social control are reproduced when a new social problem is established and they influence the problem definition as well as the action programme.

To achieve the objective above the following questions should be asked:

• Which contingent and institutional factors influenced the problem definitions and the shape of action programmes?

•   Which actors played a leading role in the definition process?

• Which problem definitions did the governments adopt?

• In what ways was the action programme to control use of illegal drugs influenced by the already institutionalised control system of alcohol?

• How did the international control system on drugs influence the national drug policies?

Previous studies

Drug use and the drug problem as such have been subject to a wide range of scientific studies in both countries. Drug-using populations and treatment practices have been studied from various angles by Bergmark and Oscarsson (1988), Kristiansen (1999), Billinger (2000), Hilte (1990), Andersson (1991), Gerdner (1998), Sallmen (1999). Kalderstam (1979) and Svensson (1996) conducted ethnographic studies on drug users living outside the treatment system. Kassman (1998) conducted a study on the role of the National Board of Police in the elaboration of the Swedish drug policy. Several studies have also been conducted on the outcome of the drug policy in terms of prevalence figures and other quantitative data: Bejerot (1975), Kuhlhorn, Kassman and Ramstedt (1996). However, none of the studies focuses on the process of elaborating the drug policy as such. An exception is the study on the Swedish drug policy by the Dutch researcher Boekhout van Solinge (1997). In his attempt to describe and to explain the Swedish control system, he considers the Swedish social/cultural context as an explanation. However, the study is based on secondary sources and interviews with experts in Sweden and not on a systematic analysis of Swedish documents.

In the Netherlands, the drug problem has been studied from various angles as well. Jansen and Swierstra (1982), Grapendaal, Leuw and Nelen (1995), Grund (1993) conducted ethnographic studies. Eland (1997) compared drug-using populations in and outside treatment practices. Korf (1995) and Cohen (1990) examined the relation between the Dutch drug policy and patterns of illicit drug use. De Kort (1995) and Joldersma (1993) studied the Dutch drug policy on the policymaking level. Baanders (1989) investigated the link between the Dutch education culture and the policy on hard drugs. Van de Wijngaart (1991) has studied the Dutch drug policy with the focus on the policy in relation to drug users.

Several studies on national drug policies have been conducted (Albrecht and van Kalmthout 1989, Goldberg 2000, Waal 1998, Dom, Jepsen, Savona 1996, Albrecht, Kalmthout, Derksen 1996). However, they have the character of country reports, without ambitions to explain the differences. In addition, some cross-cultural studies on local practices of treatment or police strategies have been conducted. Gould (1990) compared the implementation of a national policy on alcohol and drugs in two counties in Britain and Sweden. Ruggiero and South (1995) compared illegal drug markets in Great London and the Turin/Piedmont area in Italy and their relationship to the legal economy. Cattacin, Lucas, and Vetter (1996) conducted a comparative study on local drug policies in six European cities.

A more comprehensive effort to compare national drug policies was conducted by an international group of experts in the International Study for the Development of Drug Treatment Systems (ISDRUTS). In this cross-cultural research project drug treatment systems in 20 countries were analysed and compared (Klingemann and Hunt 1998). However, the focus was on one aspect of the action programmes, the treatments systems. Besides, due to the large number of countries the descriptions are necessarily broad.

When it comes to cross-cultural studies that compare national drug policies, and with the ambition to explain differences by diverging national contexts, the number of scientific studies is quite low. S. D. Stein (1985) has compared the shaping of drug policies in the US and Britain at the beginning of the twentieth century. His focus is on the implementation of provisions of international conventions and the ways in which separate rule-creating institutions interlock. The absence of a domestic drug problem (in Britain) provided an opportunity to examine the diverse ways in which dissimilar social structures refract an identical legislative policy. National drug acts were interpreted very differently by administrative agencies that were liable for the implementation.

Jan-Willem Gerritsen (1993) compared regulation regimes on a socially accepted substance, alcohol, and an unaccepted substance (if used for pleasure), opium, in the US, the Netherlands, and England. In the study, based on secondary sources, he focused on large socialhistorical processes and analysed the developments of regulation regimes according to five themes: state formation and state revenues, professionalisation of physicians, industrialisation and temperance movements, addiction and curing, prohibition and illegal market formation.

The German criminologist Sebastian Scheerer (1982) has compared the development of the Dutch Opium Act and the German Betaubungsmittelgesetze. The main part of his study of the German drug act of 1971 is based on an analysis of German governmental texts and data from the media. The Dutch part serves primarily to contrast developments of the German drug act. Furthermore, the study of developments of the Dutch drug act is primarily based on interviews with officials and scholars, not on documents as a primary source.

Hakkarainen, Jetsu, and Skretting (1996) have compared drug policy issues in the Nordic parliaments during the 1980s and early 1990s. They searched for the most essential conventions and conceptions that framed the drug problem. The study is a contemporary content analysis, not an attempt to explain the differences by a historical dimension.

The Danish criminologist Lau Larsen (1996) has studied discourses on drug issues in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark in political debates and media on two particular occasions, at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s. His focus is on discourses on control matters and their impact on Danish drug policy.

None of the studies above focuses on the definition process that preceded the establishing of a drug policy and its implementation during the formation period. Other studies conducted by Lindgren (1993) and Olsson (1994) studied discourses on drugs in Sweden from the beginning of the twentieth century until the 1970s and their influence on the Swedish drug policy. However, they are not crosscultural studies.

In recent years, there has been an increasing demand for comparative studies on the drug and policies in different countries (Berridge 1998; MacGregor 1999). The contribution of this thesis is its focus on the process of problem definitions related to the historical socio-political context in which they emerged. Furthermore, the impact of the international control system on the formation of a national drug policy adds another dimension to the study of drug policies.

Last Updated on Sunday, 02 January 2011 21:03

Our valuable member Dolf Tops has been with us since Sunday, 19 December 2010.

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