Problematising ‘Recovery’ in Drug Policy within Great Britain: A Comparative Policy Analysis between England, Wales and Scotland

Maike Klein, Jeremy Dixon

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Drug strategies in the United Kingdom emphasize the notion of recovery, with the concept being central in England, Wales and Scotland. There are however tensions, with recovery being defined differently across jurisdictions. In this study we aim to address this dilemma by critically interrogating how the term recovery is represented, how these presentations are shaped and what effects are subsequently had. We applied an adapted version of Bacchi’s (2009) What’s the Problem Represented to Be? (WPR) poststructuralist approach to policy analysis to the latest English, Welsh and Scottish drug strategies. We identified three dominant themes: a) recovery as ‘a problem of goals and ambitions’, underpinned by notions of service user responsibility; b) recovery as ‘a problem of product quality’, shaped by the implicit notion of service provider responsibility and the disease model of addiction; c) recovery as ‘a problem of service collaboration and teamwork’, underpinned by the bio-psycho-social model of addiction. We conclude that the problematisations found in the UK’s current drug policies have the ability to shape the drug policy-making process which may limit mainstream knowledge of recovery, and thereby unintentionally contribute to a narrow understanding of how to effectively support the service user community in their recovery from problematic drug use.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Drug Policy Analysis
Issue number1
Early online date2 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • drug policy
  • Drug misuse
  • Recovery
  • Great Britain


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