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Anxiety and containment in the risk society: Theorising young people and drug prevention policy

Jones, Matthew


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Mathew Jones
Professor of Public Health


This paper sets out to make sense of government responses to young people and drug use through an application of some central concepts arising from the work of Ulrich Beck and risk society theory. It is primarily concerned with recent universal and targeted drug prevention initiatives in the UK. With regard to universal educational and health promotion, it is argued that initiatives have struggled to define their communicative rationality in the context of young people's changing social encounter with drugs. Policy-based initiatives have also become increasingly expansive in nature as they seek to contain a complex and contested social risk environment. Yet, in so doing they encounter operational difficulties associated with 'manufactured risks'. Meanwhile, targeted drug prevention has become increasingly driven by the science of risk and vulnerability. However, rather than managing hazards, both 'risk science' associated policy-based interventions encounter definitional problems and system-generated risks associated with their praxis. Government agencies have, in turn, responded through introducing formalized systems for co-ordination and the responsibilisation of an increasing range of actors. Notwithstanding some difficulties, it is suggested therefore that risk society theory elucidates some of the conflicts and instabilities that underlie contemporary young people and drug prevention policy. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Jones, M. (2004). Anxiety and containment in the risk society: Theorising young people and drug prevention policy. International Journal of Drug Policy, 15(5-6 SPEC. ISS.), 367-376.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2004
Journal International Journal of Drug Policy
Print ISSN 0955-3959
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 5-6 SPEC. ISS.
Pages 367-376
Keywords risk society, late modernity, ubiquitous risk, risk science, targeted drug prevention, universal drug prevention
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