The “public health” approach to illicit drugs: an eradicative drug discourse in a sanitorial disguise?

Steven Debbaut, Tobias Kammersgaard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose
This study aims to problematize current calls for a “public health” approach to governing illicit drugs and the people who use them.

Design/methodology/approach
It draws on a range of historical sources to describe how drugs became a problem for governments, in order to critically diagnose the present and investigate the origins of current perspectives on drugs.

Findings
It is argued that there are currently two authoritative drug discourses. The first discourse is the dominant one and is eradicative, with blame and punishment as its primary responses. The second discourse is subauthoritative, but growing in importance, and is sanitorial, with care and cure as its primary responses.

Originality/value
While these two discourses have often been thought of as distinct, this historical exploration demonstrates that the eradicative and sanitorial discourses are both based on similar principles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalDrugs, Habits and Social Policy
Volume24
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2022

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