Accepted Paper:

Treatmentality: a new approach to the policy and practice of drug use treatment  


Steffen Jöhncke (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)

Paper short abstract:

As a concept and an approach, 'treatmentality' is inspired by the Foucauldian theory of 'governmentality'. This paper suggests and explores 'treatmentality' as applied to drug use treatment policy and practice in Denmark, particularly in the field of methadone treatment.

Paper long abstract:

Based on a number of applied anthropological studies of methadone treatment and related services to drug users in Denmark, this paper suggests that the idea and practice of 'treatment' itself needs ethnographic exploration as a particular cultural construction of the relationship between drug users and the rest of (the welfare) society. In our everyday thinking, the need for and practice of treatment is usually regarded as obvious and at least intentionally beneficial, something that on the basis of reason or morality can not and should not be questioned. However, this paper argues that treatment first of all serves to establish a particular relationship in which the solution (treatment) defines the problem (drug use and drug users' lives and activities) in culturally and politically expedient ways. Drawing on the theory of 'governmentality' from Michel Foucault, this paper argues that a crucial component in the functioning of treatment is the creation and targetting of drug users as a particular and identifiable section of the population, and that researchers - anthropologists included - assist in this process.

Panel W020
The anthropology of drug policy: a way to diversify the field of drug studies?