Addiction field

22.01.2014

Addiction Field

Publisher: Mgr. Lenka Šťastná Ph.D. | Last update: 22.01.2014

In the Czech Republic, addictology is defined as an autonomous transdisciplinary field of science which focuses on addictive substance use and addictive behaviour as well as on their impacts and contexts. Addictology combines biological, psychological, social and legal-criminological perspectives into research framework focused on particular issues such as risk environment for addictive substance use and addictive behaviour, etc. The aim of the field is to provide the society with relevant scientific information of excellent level and contribute to progress in mental as well as physical health of the population through evidence-based prevention, treatment, harm reduction (i.e., as a whole, the area demand reduction) and measures focusing on addictive substance market and the regulation of handling addictive substances in general (i.e., as a whole, supply reduction).

Addictology in the Czech Republic reflects a long tradition which, in the area of self-help activities dates back to the beginning of the second half of the 19th century, and the formation of the first specialised treatment programmes to the beginning of the 1920s. Contemporary Czech addictology thus draws on very diverse experience ranging from self-help systems, via the traditional, abstinence-oriented approaches, to the interesting legacy of systematic psychiatric research into hallucinogenic substances in the 1950s and 1960s or an original training model for professionals and paraprofessionals called SUR which came into existence in the 1970s. Addictology draws on national as well as international research and practice and it was, in modern history of the Czech Republic, fundamentally influenced by the new wave of the pragmatic drug policy formed in the course of the 1990s after the so-called Velvet Revolution in 1989. During this period, when an open drug scene emerged for the first time in the Czech Republic, the international evidence-based knowledge served as a basis for the formation of a network of necessary preventive and treatment programmes and programmes focused on harm reduction. This approach was helpful in, among other things, coping with HIV and VHC epidemics among intravenous drug users in the CR, the infection rate being one of the lowest in Europe. The rapid development of substitution treatment since 2002 resulted in a significant reduction in the number of deaths associated with drugs at the beginning of the millennium. The whole process, at the same time, has resulted in the formation of an entirely original educational system in the Czech Republic and an interesting and progressively developed system of organisation of school prevention and social and treatment care of addictive substance users.

Addictology is an autonomous transdisciplinary field that deals with risk environment for addictive substance use and for the development of addictive behaviour (demand reduction), including the area of regulation and control (supply reduction). The concept of addictive behaviour is focused on the use of substances, defined using the diagnostic categories and criteria of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), but expands the field of exploration to the wider areas of human behaviour accompanied by loss of control and compulsive manifestations and having, in a broader conception off the field, impact on the emerging diagnostic group of so-called process addictions such as, for instance, pathological gambling, excessive computer game playing or internet use that cause harm in individuals or (parts of) the society.

The concept of risk environment represents a framework for the study of questions of basic and applied research in addictology with the aim to support the understanding of patterns of addictive substance use, addictive behaviour and associated harms, their management and reduction, not from the perspective of direct relationships of cause and effect, but from the perspective of conditionality by the social context and by the influence of the environment where different biological, psychological and social factors interact and interweave.

These dynamic concepts require expert knowledge as well as cooperation reaching beyond the traditional boundaries of the fields. The transdisciplinary approach is reflected in research activities focused on topics that transcend the boundaries of the individual disciplines (specialities) such as different biomedical and behavioural sciences or economics. It does not linger, however, on the common field of the individual disciplines, but also purposefully supports the involvement of stakeholders working outside the academic sphere, such as policy makers, service providers, interest groups or the public, in order to reach new and shared understanding. Transdisciplinary research creates common paradigms, terminology and epistemology and generates new concepts and knowledge and theories aiming at meaningful progress in our understanding of complex situations and behaviours.

 


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