The purpose of this paper is to consider how policy researchers should respond to recent developments in substance use and the governance of drug and alcohol policy in the UK.
The paper takes two elements from the 2010 UK Drug Strategy – supply and treatment – and considers a case study in each to briefly examine the potential role of local policymakers in shaping how substance use is experienced.
It is argued that the Coalition Government’s health reforms have given local commissioners greater autonomy over treatment policy than they had under the preceding Labour Government. Similarly, the regulation of new psychoactive substances in the UK has left local areas to determine their own approach to controlling supply through retail outlets.
Drawing on the broader academic literature on policymaking, this paper calls for ethnographic research into local policymaking related to substance use, which will help to illuminate how perceived policy problems are shaped by particular local systems and understandings of evidence.
While this paper is not unique in identifying the importance of locally based research, it identifies the particular relevance of this research agenda in the UK today. It seeks to inform and encourage research that can shape the development of local policymaking.
This paper was not supported by any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the “New Problems, Old Solutions?” conference at the University of Leeds in December 2014. The author is grateful to the comments and advice of those who attended, as well as the two anonymous referees.
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