Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research

Complex cases - complex representations of problems

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Many Danish drug users do not only require services related to drug use, but face other obstacles such as mental illnesses and unemployment. The services are constituted by different types of policies, which represent both overlapping and sometimes conflicting ideas of how to frame, intervene and 'fix' problems. Policy research has mainly focused on these fields separately, however, in this article, we scrutinize policies in the fields drug use and treatment, unemployment and mental health separately and we bring together our findings to conduct a cross-sectorial analysis of how and why citizens with a mix of problems related to the three fields are produced into particular 'kinds' of subjects amenable to particular kind of tools, interventions and outcomes. Methodologically, we apply an explorative, descriptive policy analysis strategy of key policy documents. We conduct an analysis of the content of policy documents in which data sources are coded focusing on key concepts and arguments as well as examining how problem representations are embedded. Analytically, we draw on constructivist approaches exploring how problems and citizens in need of help are represented in different types of policy documents as well as how interventions are legitimized and how methods, tools and outcomes of interventions are represented. The article shows how policies altogether problematize drug users with complex problems as both morally obliged to find inner motivation and willpower and as victims of poor circumstances depriving them the benefits of leading a 'normal' life. This should be 'fixed' by treatment and interventions, resulting in that socially marginalized citizens 'get better' and, hence, are being transformed into 'someone else'. Finally, we discuss the potential benefits and limitations of the ways in which the proposed problems, solutions and expected outcomes are represented.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102563
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Complex problems, Drug users, Mental health, Policies, Unemployment

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