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Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

The Journal of Nordic Centre for Welfare and Social Issues


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1458-6126
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Governmental conceptions of the drug problem: A review of Norwegian governmental papers 1965–2012

1research director Norwegian Institute for alcohol and Drug Research (SIRUS)

© by Astrid Skretting. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Citation Information: Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Volume 31, Issue 5-6, Pages 569–584, ISSN (Online) 1458-6126, DOI: 10.2478/nsad-2014-0047, December 2014

Publication History

Received:
2014-03-14
Accepted:
2014-06-03
Published Online:
2014-12-11

Abstract

BACKGROUND - It is almost 50 years since the “new” drug problem appeared in Norway. How have central authorities conceived of the drug problem during these 50 years? On what have relevant policymaking and action been based? How has the government’s conceptions of the drug problem been expressed over the years? DATA - White papers, action plans, bills etc. RESULTS - A review of the main policy documents shows how Norway adopted strict penal measures from the outset, while recognizing at the same time the need to apply an interdisciplinary approach to drug abuse and initiate various support measures for drug users alongside the penal measures. In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis on seeing drug abuse as a health-related problem rather than one of control. Substance abuse is today perceived more in terms of dependency or as a disease, and harm reduction is increasingly seen as a pivotal aspect of policy. People with drug problems were known until recently as substance abusers, though the preferred term today is “drug dependents”. CONCLUSIONS - As such, one could say, Norway seems to have developed a “schizophrenic” view of the drug problem. On the one hand, the health aspects of drug abuse are increasingly central to thinking, while on the other penalties for drug offenses remain high. This health/penalty loop in turn seems to prevent the government from softening its stance on penalties - even if such a move were considered appropriate.

Keywords: Drug policy; governmental documents; Norway

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