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  • 1.
    Ekendahl, Mats
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Karlsson, Patrik
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Månsson, Josefin
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Logics of Legitimation in Swedish Treatment for Youth Cannabis Use: The Problem Representations of Social Workers in a Prohibitionist Policy Context2018In: Contemporary Drug Problems, ISSN 0091-4509, E-ISSN 2163-1808, Vol. 45, no 3, p. 244-261Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Liberal views on cannabis use are widespread in many Western countries, but prohibitionism remains strong in Sweden. According to Swedish drug policy, comprehensive prevention and treatment interventions are necessary because young people are considered particularly vulnerable to cannabis-related harm. In this article, we examine how staff at Swedish outpatient treatment centers for young substance users (called “MiniMaria”) use different logics when legitimizing their work in youth treatment. We also analyze how this legitimizing process contributes to both justifying solutions and constituting the cannabis “problem” that MiniMaria centers are established to handle. This will shed light on what “drug reality” the staff make up through their articulations. Eighteen interviews with social workers from six MiniMaria centers in the Stockholm region were analyzed. To illustrate how staff made sense of their work, we used the concepts of “problem representation”, “legitimation”, and “logics”. We identified four logics: A scientific and a structural logic linked to knowledge claims, policy goals, and organizational setting, and a professional and a procedural logic linked to work experience, client interaction, and therapeutic methods. Participants used logics to emphasize that the character of the cannabis problem demands wide-ranging interventions and to explain how they made youth cannabis users realize they need treatment. The structural logic of drug prohibitionism was only mentioned as a last resort when other logics were not applicable, for example, when a young person refused to engage in treatment and quit using cannabis. The strategic use of logics provided MiniMaria with a moral legitimacy that represented youth cannabis use as a high-profile problem and young people as in need of protection and control. This legitimizes prevention of youth cannabis use in a national setting where cannabis prevalence and harm remains relatively low.

  • 2.
    Ekendahl, Mats
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Månsson, Josefin
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Karlsson, Patrik
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Cannabis i Sverige - en komplex substans, en enkelspårig drogpolitik?2020In: Socionomens forskningssupplement, no 47, p. 16-25Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [sv]

    I Sverige är cannabis, särskilt ungdomars bruk av substansen, kontroversiella ämnen som uppmärksammas såväl i media och politik som bland myndigheter och allmänhet. I denna artikel presenterar vi ett forskningsprojekt som belyser det svenska cannabisbruket, med fokus på vilka som gör det, deras åsikter och motiv, samt hur det kan gå till när de möter preventionsinsatser. Våra resultat pekar mot att cannabisbruk kan ha många olika betydelser och funktioner i människors liv, samt att den svenska förbudspolitiken sätter ramarna för hur användare förstår sina handlingar och hur de bemöts av omgivningen. Yttre inflytande från en drogliberal omvärld har dock inneburit att det knappast längre går att identifiera en allenarådande ”berättelse” om vad cannabis är, vilka effekter substansen har och vad som kännetecknar användarna. Vårt projekt understryker vikten av en mer nyanserad politik och praktik i förhållande till cannabisbruk i Sverige.

  • 3.
    Ekendahl, Mats
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Månsson, Josefin
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Karlsson, Patrik
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Cannabis use under prohibitionism – the interplay between motives, contexts and subjects2019In: Drugs: education prevention and policy, ISSN 0968-7637, E-ISSN 1465-3370Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    A key question in drugs research is why people use psychoactive substances. Diverse motives such as boredom, habit, and pain relief have served as explanations, but little is known about how adult cannabis users motivate their use in prohibitionist policy contexts, like Sweden. The aim is to explore what motives a sample of adult Swedish cannabis users refer to when they give meaning to their use. We ask: what aspects of cannabis use (e.g. drug effects, individual characteristics and social contexts) are emphasized in their accounts, and how are such aspects combined to describe motives and justify use? In this study, motives are perceived as culturally situated action, and our analysis is based on online text messages (n = 238) and interviews (n = 12). Participants emphasized either the characteristics of the use situation (motives such as party, relaxation and social function) or of him-/herself as an individual (motives such as mindfulness, identity marker and somatic function). They often mentioned medical and recreational motives in the same account, and carefully presented themselves as rational individuals. The motives reflect that the drugs discourse is increasingly medicalized, that responsibility is highly esteemed in contemporary societies, and that cannabis use is still stigmatized in Sweden.

  • 4.
    Ekendahl, Mats
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Månsson, Josefin
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Karlsson, Patrik
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Risk and responsibilization: resistance and compliance in Swedish treatment for youth cannabis use2020In: Drugs: education prevention and policy, ISSN 0968-7637, E-ISSN 1465-3370, Vol. 27, no 1, p. 60-68Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    There is a lack of research on how youth make sense of substance abuse treatment. The aim of this article was to explore how young people in Stockholm, Sweden, perceive outpatient treatment for cannabis use, position themselves as subjects in relation to it, and how they respond to staff’s appeals to rationality and responsible action. The data, consisting of 18 interviews with clients recruited from six treatment centers, were explored using narrative and thematic analysis. Results show that the young clients understood their histories in a responsibilized way where the risk information about cannabis they received was considered crucial. Those who resisted treatment rejected cannabis problematizations by staff, did not value interventions and felt that they had control over their use. Those who complied with treatment said that cannabis problematizations helped them acknowledge their own difficulties, handle substance dependence and mature. We conclude that treatment resistance among young cannabis users would perhaps be prevented if the adult world acknowledged that some believe it is rational and responsible to use cannabis. While the criminal offense of substance use is often expiated through ‘treatment’ in Sweden, young clients establishing a substance use identity could possibly be avoided if cannabis was not equated with risk.

  • 5.
    Karlsson, Patrik
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Ekendahl, Mats
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Månsson, Josefin
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Raninen, Jonas
    Has illicit drug use become normalised in groups of Swedish youth? A latent class analysis of school survey data from 2012 to 20152019In: Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, ISSN 1455-0725, E-ISSN 1458-6126, Vol. 36, no 1, p. 21-35Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Background:

    It is often assumed that illicit drug use has become normalised in the Western world, as evidenced for example by increased prevalence rates and drug-liberal notions in both socially advantaged and disadvantaged youth populations. There is accumulating research on the characteristics of young illicit drug users from high-prevalence countries, but less is known about the users in countries where use is less common. There is reason to assume that drug users in low-prevalence countries may be more disadvantaged than their counterparts in high-prevalence countries, and that the normalisation thesis perhaps does not apply to the former context.

    Aim:

    This article aims to explore to what extent such assertions hold true by studying the characteristics of young illicit drug users in Sweden, where prevalence is low and drug policy centres on zero tolerance.

    Material and Method:

    We draw on a subsample (n = 3374) of lifetime users of illicit drugs from four waves of a nationally representative sample of students in 9th and 11th grade (2012–2015). Latent class analysis (LCA) on ten indicators pertaining to illicit drug use identified four classes which we termed “Marijuana testers”, “Marijuana users”, “Cannabinoid users” and “Polydrug users”.

    Findings:

    Indications of social advantage/disadvantage such as peer drug use, early substance-use debut and truancy varied across groups, particularly between “Marijuana testers” (low scores) and “Polydrug users” (high scores).

    Conclusions:

    Our findings corroborate the idea that the majority of those who have used illicit drugs in the Swedish youth population have tried marijuana a few times only. We discuss whether or not the comparably large share of socially advantaged “Marijuana testers” in a comparably small sample of lifetime users can be interpreted as a sort of normalisation in a prohibitionist drug policy context.

  • 6.
    Månsson, Josefin
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).
    A dawning demand for a new cannabis policy: A study of Swedish online drug discussions2014In: International journal on drug policy, ISSN 0955-3959, E-ISSN 1873-4758, Vol. 25, no 4, p. 673-681Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Background: This study examines how online discussions on drug policy are formulating an oppositional cannabis discourse in an otherwise prohibitionist country like Sweden. The focus of the paper is to identify demands for an alternative cannabis policy as well as analysing how these demands are linked to governance. Methods: The empirical material is 56 discussion-threads from the online message-board Flashback Forum that were active during the first eight months of 2012. Discourse theory was used to locate the discourse, and governmentality theory was used to locate the political belonging of the discourse. Results: On Flashback Forum demands for a new cannabis policy are articulated in opposition to Swedish prohibitionist discourse. The oppositional discourse is constructed around the nodal points cannabis, harm, state and freedom that fill legalisation/decriminalisation/liberalisation with meaning. The nodal points are surrounded by policy demands that get their meaning through the particular nodal. These demands originate from neo-liberal and welfarist political rationalities. Neo-liberal and welfarist demands are mixed, and participants are simultaneously asking for state and individual approaches to handle the cannabis issue. Conclusion: Swedish online discourse on cannabis widens the scope beyond the confines of drug policy to broader demands such as social justice, individual choice and increased welfare. These demands are not essentially linked together and many are politically contradictory. This is also significant for the discourse; it is not hegemonised by a political ideology. The discourse is negotiated between the neo-liberal version of an alternative policy demanding individual freedom, and the welfarist version demanding social responsibility. This implies the influence of the heritage from the social-democratic discourse, centred on state responsibility, which have been dominating Swedish politics in modern times. Consequently, this study refutes that the demand for a new cannabis policy is strictly neo-liberal.

  • 7.
    Månsson, Josefin
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Cannabis discourses in contemporary Sweden: Continuity and change2017Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    The aim of this thesis is to study how cannabis is constructed in contemporary Sweden, which policy responses are promoted as rational, and how international cannabis trends are received in this context. The four papers are the result of analyzing empirical material from three different sub-studies: 1) a qualitative study of online discussions about cannabis and drug policy, 2) a qualitative and comparative study of print media articles from 2002 and 2012, and 3) a qualitative study of oral presentations from cannabis information symposia. All papers are based on a social constructionist approach.

    A point of departure is that attitudes and regulations on cannabis have changed in large parts of the Western world. In Sweden, however, strict prohibition of cannabis is still central in the national drug laws. Some of the main findings can thus be gathered in discussions on continuity and change. In Swedish online discussions, there seems to be a strong desire to change the national cannabis policy in line with international developments. This discussion propagates alternative views on cannabis, in which comparisons to alcohol become vital and more liberal cannabis policies become logical. These discussions are also characterized by continuity, as many arguments for liberal cannabis policies seem to be based on traditional social democratic values and prohibitionist “scaremongering” arguments. Continuity is also what seems to characterize traditional print media, where cannabis is generally portrayed as a potent and illegal drug producing social problems. However, this arena also shows signs of change, as the material from 2012 includes stories on cannabis as an economic asset as well as a recreational substance. Both traditional print media and cannabis information symposia focus on youth consumers, who are seen as particularly vulnerable to cannabis effects. Such constructions seem important for protecting prohibition from international influences and for a continuous discourse centered on the dangers of cannabis.

    It is concluded that cannabis appears to be able to represent almost anything. As such it can be “used” for any purpose to promote a whole set of ideas related to policy often based on what is considered as scientific evidence. Depending on the context, it thus seems possible that cannabis is medicinal, recreational, harmful, and addictive. If so, and if all of these constructions are in some way “real,” then it is suggested that cannabis necessitates a much more tailored and nuanced response than that which prohibition can offer.

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  • 8.
    Månsson, Josefin
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).
    The same old story? Continuity and change in Swedish print media constructions of cannabis2016In: Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, ISSN 1458-6126, Vol. 33, no 3, p. 267-285Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    AIMS - The purpose of the study is to describe and analyse how cannabis is constructed in Swedish print media and if this has changed over time. Sweden is known for its prohibitionist cannabis policy, but this approach seems increasingly challenged on both international and domestic arenas. It is therefore important to see if and how this international change is mirrored and processed in a key arena such as print media. METHODS - Newspaper material from two years, 2002 and 2012, was included to analyse continuity and change. The theoretical backdrop for the study is social constructionism, and methodological concepts such as discourse and subject positions from discourse theory were used to investigate how cannabis and cannabis problems are constructed. RESULTS - The analysis showed that print media in both years seem to draw mainly on a juridical, a social problems and a medical discourse when portraying cannabis. It is through these discourses that some subject positions become relevant as users (e.g. youth) and as experts (e.g. police). Despite a strong continuity in these cannabis constructions, the analysis also shows signs of change. For example, in 2012 there are articles drawing on economic and recreational discourses, and there is a global outlook enabling new cannabis constructions. CONCLUSION - The Swedish print media generally has a crime-centred and deterrent approach towards cannabis, with prohibition at the heart of the reporting. International events do however introduce discursive alternatives in 2012. It remains to be seen if these new ways of writing about cannabis will strengthen or challenge prohibitionist constructions.

  • 9.
    Månsson, Josefin
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).
    Ekendahl, Mats
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Drogproblematik på internet2016In: Socialt arbete och internet: att förstå och hantera sociala problem på nya arenor / [ed] Kristian Daneback, Emma Sorbring, Stockholm: Liber, 2016, p. 74-89Chapter in book (Other academic)
  • 10.
    Månsson, Josefin
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).
    Ekendahl, Mats
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Legitimacy through scaremongering: the discursive role of alcohol in online discussions of cannabis use and policy2013In: Addiction Research and Theory, ISSN 1606-6359, E-ISSN 1476-7392, Vol. 21, no 6, p. 469-478Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    In Sweden, prohibitionist drug policy has contributed to making cannabis an illegal drug, viewed as dangerous, while alcohol is considered a legitimate recreational commodity. But the official Swedish cannabis discourse is now being contested on internet. In virtual environments an often employed way to try to legitimize cannabis use is by comparing it to alcohol. This indicates the importance of analyzing how substances are attributed with meaning in various contexts. This study aims to describe and analyze the discursive role of alcohol in Swedish online discussions of cannabis use and policy. Approximately 700 alcohol-related comments, posted during one year period, were retrieved from the cannabis-section of Swedish Flashback Forum (a website open for public viewing). The sample was analyzed qualitatively with analytical tools such as nodal points, analogies, distinctions and typological examples. Two concepts, danger and discrimination, were identified as nodal points in a cannabis legalization discourse, and provided a backdrop from which comparisons between alcohol and cannabis were made meaningful. We have found that cannabis and alcohol ‘‘changed places’’ in these online discussions. The participants drew on a prohibitionist cannabis discourse but applied its arguments to alcohol; alcohol was thereby given the role of the ‘‘ideal enemy’’ while cannabis was presented as a harmless plant rejected by society on moral rather than scientific grounds. The relevance of acknowledging and reflecting upon the influence that online ‘‘talk’’ has on young people’s attitudes towards drugs is discussed.

  • 11.
    Månsson, Josefin
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).
    Ekendahl, Mats
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
    Protecting Prohibition: the Role of Swedish Information Symposia in Keeping Cannabis a High-Profile Problem2015In: Contemporary Drug Problems, ISSN 0091-4509, E-ISSN 2163-1808, Vol. 42, no 3, p. 209-225Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    During recent years, political discussions about how to deal with cannabis use have become increasingly centered on harm reduction and liberalization in large parts of the Western world. In Sweden, however, no such re-framing of the issue has occurred. There has been political status quo with emphasis on prohibition and zero tolerance. This study aims to elucidate how the cannabis policy discourse in Sweden is characterized today to legitimize restrictive drug policy and counter global changes. Two symposia dedicated to dissemination of cannabis information in Sweden were analyzed to understand how policy players, service providers, and other professionals invited to speak at these events argue to maintain cannabis use a high-profile societal problem that necessitates prohibition. With the help of Carol Bacchi’s theoretical approach “What’s the Problem Represented to be,” we critically analyzed how cannabis is constructed in the material. This meant focusing on what policy and service provision that is described as meaningful and effective as a way to understand what the problem of cannabis is represented to be. Our analysis showed, among other things, that cannabis-positive attitudes are seen as utterly problematic, that youth users are portrayed as extremely vulnerable, and that current government responses are perceived as righteous and compassionate. It also showed how speakers at symposia construct a morally upright “us” who promote “reliable” scientific evidence about the dangers of cannabis. In this way, the choice between keeping prohibition and trying liberalization stands out as one between letting reliable or unreliable research guide drug policy. We conclude that youth becomes a perfect category to rationalize current problematizations; a vessel that may carry and protect drug prohibition in a globalized world where cannabis is increasingly handled like an ordinary commodity.

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