About SSAC

Established in 2013.

Concepts of ‘addiction’ vary across time and place. Focusing on the field of alcohol and other drug use, this program of research takes ideas of 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.

The term ‘addiction’ is a heavily contested one. Medical and public health circles in Australia and some other countries prefer the term ‘dependence’, and in other contexts terms such as ‘compulsivity’ and ‘compulsive behaviour’ dominate. Widely mobilised in popular discourse (as well as by internationally influential bodies such as the US National Institute of Drug Abuse) the term ‘addiction’ is used in our program as an umbrella to allow critical investigation. SSAC’s aim is not to adopt a particular interpretation of the ‘problem of addiction’ but to illuminate the ways the ‘problem’ itself is constituted and operates in society, culture and politics. In doing so SSAC’s intention is to support critical thought on all these issues.

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 injection of performance and image enhancing drugs, the uptake of naloxone or ‘the new recovery’?
  • How do changes in terminology (such as in debates about ‘dependence’ versus ‘addiction’) affect the way alcohol and other drug policy and services are 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 alcohol and other drug-related health and social outcomes in Australia.

The SSAC program is located within the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI), Curtin University, and based at NDRI’s Melbourne office.

We acknowledge the traditional owners of all the lands on which Curtin University operates, and pay our respects to elders past and present.

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