Alcohol treatment policy 1950-1990 : from alcohol treatment to alcohol problems management
The thesis draws on historical and social policy perspectives to examine the factors influencing development and change in alcohol treatment policy between 1950 and 1990. The study uses data from primary and secondary documentation and from taped interviews. Three themes are highlighted as particularly relevant to an examination of policy trends. The first of these is the emergence and evolution of a `policy community'. Spearheaded by psychiatrists in the 1960s, the `policy community' broadened to include other professional groups and the voluntary sector by the 1990s. The second theme concerns the role of research in influencing the nature and direction of treatment policy. The study indicates increasing use of research as the rationale for policy and illustrates the move towards a `contractor' relationship between research workers and policy makers. The final theme deals with the influence on policy of ideological frames and changing conceptualisations of the alcohol problem. Two major shifts were important for treatment, the re-discovery of the disease concept of alcoholism in the 1950s and the emergence of a new public health model of alcohol problems in the 1970s. Within these broad themes, the study includes an examination of tensions - between different professional perspectives, between government departments with differing responsibilities, between different ideologies - and of moves to secure consensus in the formulation and implementation of treatment policy. The final chapter addresses shifts in thinking from the re-emergence of a `disease' model of alcoholism in the 1950s, to a `consumptionist' (population-based) model in the 1970s, towards a `harm reduction' approach to alcohol problems management in the 1990s. The thesis concludes that over the past forty years competing paradigms of the alcohol problem have emerged and gained policy salience within particular historical-social contexts in the search for policy consensus to manage the problematic aspects of alcohol consumption.