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Drug consumption rooms: Comparing times, spaces and actors in issues of social acceptability in French public debate

Abstract : Background : In October 2016, the first French drug consumption room (DCR) opened in Paris. We propose to examine the process through which this issue has been framed as a matter of public concern, after being ignored for almost 20 years. Our analysis of the controversy on DCRs investigates how public conversations on harm reduction evolve according to the time period (from the 1990s to the present), scale of discourse (local vs. national), and involved actors (politicians, professionals, local residents, and drug users). Methodology Our methodology includes analyses of media content: we reviewed 1735 articles published between 1990 and 2017. Our theoretical approach is in line with the sociology “des épreuves” derived from pragmatic sociology and controversy analysis. This approach goes beyond interactionism by attempting to place situations back into broader sociological realities. We also pay special attention to governance, a political lens that focuses on local aspects of negotiations and on the implication of a variety of actors. Results While the current debate on DCRs in France draws on constraints and resources already present in the harm reduction debate of the 1980s, it also repositions itself by avoiding moral argumentation and featuring less confrontation in the professional sphere. Today, we can see that the center of this tense debate has shifted from the professional sphere to the political and residential spheres. Most often, residents advance concerns that are not directly related to drug users themselves, but that derive from their apprehension of living in a displaced and stranded neighborhood. The public conversation leaves little room for drug users, even though they are the primary stakeholders of harm reduction and play a crucial role in DCR advocacy. Conclusion Our work reveals that the controversy about DCR is the product of complex interactions between different kinds of actors harm reduction professionals, political actors at the local and national levels, local residents, and drug users. Comparing different instances of public debate reveals the specific limitations and potentials for change in French drug policy.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, December 14, 2021 - 3:18:01 PM
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Marie Jauffret-Roustide, I Cailbault. Drug consumption rooms: Comparing times, spaces and actors in issues of social acceptability in French public debate. International Journal of Drug Policy, 2018, 56, pp.208-217. ⟨10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.04.014⟩. ⟨hal-03480145⟩



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