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“Getting Better”: The Politics of Comparison in Addiction Treatment and Research
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2018 (English)In: Contemporary Drug Problems, ISSN 0091-4509, E-ISSN 2163-1808Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

The alcohol and other drug field is characterized by great diversity in kinds of treatment and treatmentphilosophies. Even the kinds of problems treatment is expected to address vary significantly, althoughagreement seems to exist that the general purpose is to help people “get better.” This article considersthis diversity, drawing on a qualitative project conducted in three countries: Australia, Canada, andSweden. Inspired by the project’s multisite approach and the questions it raises about comparativeresearch, the article critically engages with the notion of “comparison” to think through what is atstake in making comparisons. Analyzing 80 interviews conducted with policy makers, service provi-ders, and peer advocates, the article maps key ways treatment is conceptualized, identifying in them acentral role for comparison. Participants in all sites invoked the need to consider addiction a multi-faceted problem requiring a mix of responses tailored to individual differences. Related notions of“holism” were also commonly invoked, as was the need to concentrate on overall improvements inwell-being rather than narrow changes in consumption patterns. In conducting this analysis, this articleposes a series of critical questions. What kinds of comparisons about quality of life, the self, and well-being do treatments for addiction put into play? What categories and criteria of comparison arenaturalized in these processes? What kinds of insights might these categories and criteria authorize,and what might they rule out? In short, what does it mean to understand alcohol and other drug useand our responses to it as intimately intertwined with the need to “get better,” and what happenswhen we scrutinize the politics of comparison at work in getting better through addiction treatment?We conclude by arguing for the need to find new, fairer, ways of constituting the problems we pre-sently ascribe to drugs and addiction.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
Keywords [en]
addiction, treatment, comparison, science and technology studies, qualitative research
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-156850DOI: 10.1177/0091450917748163OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-156850DiVA, id: diva2:1211574
Available from: 2018-05-31 Created: 2018-05-31 Last updated: 2018-06-04

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