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Danish heroin prescription in Swedish print media: exploring the silent agreements of harm reduction and zero tolerance
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2012 (English)In: Addiction Research and Theory, ISSN 1606-6359, Vol. 20, no 5, 423-434 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Sweden's response to drug problems has long been governed by zero tolerance, as manifested by the motto 'a drug-free society' and the criminalisation of drug use. In this context, the legitimacy of methadone maintenance treatment and other interventions often depicted as harm reduction has been questioned. This highlights that solutions to drug problems are circumscribed by culture-specific ideologies and definitions of reality that are articulated in different discourses. The study aims to elucidate how Denmark's decision in 2008 to launch heroin prescription (a controversial form of maintenance treatment) was addressed in Swedish print media, and identify how key concepts such as 'heroin users' and 'treatment' were attributed with meaning. In order for the analysis to go beyond apparent differences between the discourses of harm reduction and zero tolerance, specific interest was placed in constructions that were shared by protagonists on the issue of heroin prescription. The data encompasses 29 articles (news agency announcements plus daily press) that were analysed with focus on binary oppositions and then coded thematically. Four themes were identified: 'Users as passive victims'; 'Methadone as benchmark'; 'Treatment as necessity' and 'Swedish drug policy as unique'. These themes appear as presuppositions, or silent agreements, that precede different understandings of heroin prescription in Swedish press. It is concluded that the media representations reproduced traditional constructions of heroin users as victims in need of society's help. The relevance of characterising heroin prescription as a 'new way' of handling heroin dependence problems is discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 20, no 5, 423-434 p.
Keyword [en]
Heroin prescription, maintenance treatment, harm reduction, media, discourse, qualitative
National Category
Substance Abuse Media and Communications
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-82398DOI: 10.3109/16066359.2012.661898ISI: 000308655600007OAI: diva2:567552


Available from: 2012-11-13 Created: 2012-11-13 Last updated: 2012-11-13Bibliographically approved

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Ekendahl, Mats
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