How do Australian alcohol and other drug (AOD) policies define and respond to issues of drug use and addiction? How do the objectives made explicit in these policies relate to the implicit assumptions about drugs and drug problems also at work in them? These questions underpin one of SSAC’s largest research projects: an ARC-funded international comparison of concepts of addiction in Canadian and Australian AOD policy. The aim of the study is to compare two policy settings, taking into account their similarities and differences, to generate fresh ideas for Australian responses to AOD issues (more on this study can be found under the Projects tab).
Building on the important groundwork undertaken for this research, the study has now expanded to include a third comparative site, Sweden. In September 2013 a new collaborative relationship was formed between SSAC’s Associate Professor Suzanne Fraser and staff at Sweden’s Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD), Stockholm University. The collaboration was initiated with a month-long visit to SORAD’s Stockholm offices, and has begun with work on a research paper comparing Sweden’s national drug policy document and Australia’s current National Drug Strategy. This comparison presents a range of challenges, raising questions of translation and cultural difference in language, metaphor and other aspects of meaning-making. In comparing national documents, the team (listed below) has begun conducting close readings of language, as well as analysing the overarching themes and metaphors the documents rely upon for describing and understanding drug problems, individuals, social forces and addiction itself. As Suzanne Fraser explains, ‘Making international comparisons is an important but difficult process, and this is the first time I know of that a comparative AOD study embracing Australia, Canada and Sweden has been developed. International teams are essential for ensuring that interpretation is as culturally and socially grounded as possible. These teams are also crucial for communicating research findings effectively at the local level and building and maintaining relationships with research partners who are based outside universities – local policy makers, service providers, advocates and other interested stakeholders.’
The research will continue in 2014 with another month-long visit, this time to conduct interviews with Swedish policy makers and service providers. These will be analysed alongside the interviews already being collected with Australian policy makers and service providers.
The research team comprises:
Associate Professor Suzanne Fraser (SSAC, NDRI)
Professor David Moore (NDRI)
Professor Börje Olsson (SORAD)
Associate Professor Jukka Törrönen (SORAD)
Dr Mimmi Eriksson Tinghög (SORAD)