Seeking legitimacy for broad understandings of substance use / Niki Kiepek, Katinka Van de Ven, Matthew Dunn, Cynthia Forlini
- International Journal of Drug Policy 73 (November 2019, p. 58-63
- PMID: 31336295
- DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.07.014
This commentary invites discussion about implicit and explicit factors that impede research about substance use from a nuanced perspective that recognises potential benefits and advantages. It is argued that explicit efforts to engage in scholarship beyond those informed by theoretical and philosophical assumptions that substance use is inherently risky and problematic can enhance genuine inquisition about substance use and transform which discourses and interpretations are legitimised. Prioritisation of scholarly funding and publication has largely been predicated on the notion that illicit substances pose an inherent risk for individual and social harm. This has implicitly and explicitly influenced what type of research has been conducted and how substance use is constructed. Researchers who engage in scholarship that suspends assumptions of risk and problems associated with substance use may become subject to judgement about their credibility, ethics, and expertise. Moving forward, we suggest that conscientiously attending to broad, nuanced experiences associated with substance use will contribute to a stronger evidence base. Equal opportunity should be given to examine the complexity of lived experiences. It may also be timely to consider what brings value to scholarly pursuit, recognising that health is but one valued social outcome. Perhaps other outcomes, such as human rights, compassion, and justice are equally commendable. To advance substance use scholarship, it is essential that decision-makers (e.g., funding bodies, editors) embrace research that does not conform to assumptions of risk or inherent problems as exclusively legitimate, advocate for scholarship that resists conforming to dominant discourses, and create spaces for critical perspectives and interpretations.