Over the years the research field of substance use has become immense and to some extent divided and specialized. The interdisciplinary characteristic of the field increases this distinction. The main aim of this paper will be to give a short overview of some central aspects in the earlier research, identify some of the shortcomings and argue that the Situational Action Theory (SAT) could solve some of them.
A full systematic literature review of a whole research field as large as that of substance use is impossible. The aim was however to identify the most important theories of the field suggested to explain why people use substances, and to perform this search as systematic as possible.
The research field of substance use came out as scattered. Three central theoretical traits were however identified, suggesting that people’s substance use is affected by laws and policies in society, norms and behaviours of others and people’s individual characteristics including personal traits, experiences, and biological vulnerability. It was further demonstrated that the diversity of the field interfere with the potential of knowing what matters most. Many of the explanations that are given have been shown to have an impact on substance use, suggesting that individual and environmental factors matters. SAT acknowledge their importance but argues that the interaction between them is most important.
SAT fits very well with many of the theories proposed to explain substance use and is able to incorporate the various aspects into a common theoretical framework. A common framework helps determine what the causes are and which one is most important. Using SAT as the theoretical frame in relation to substance use can thus help us determine the real causes which might further assist in selecting between various substance use policy approaches.