Ideation, social construction and drug policy: A scoping review

Vanessa Gstrein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Within drug policy scholarship there is a growing body of literature applying ideational and social constructionist approaches to address the complexity of drug policy making and the apparent failure of the evidence-based policy paradigm to free the process from controversy and contestation. Ideational approaches are concerned with the roles played by ideas and beliefs in policy making, while social construction explores the way policy problems are constructed, and agendas are set and delineated by dominant frames and narratives. Interest in these approaches has developed over the last two decades, but has rapidly gained momentum over the last five years. There has been limited reflection on the state of the field, therefore it is timely to conduct a review of the literature to assess the value of these approaches, capture emerging themes and issues, and identify gaps in the literature to support future research directions. Using the Arksey and O’Malley framework, a scoping review was conducted to survey the breadth of the field. Following database and hand searching, 48 studies from 1996 to 2016 were selected for inclusion in the review. A narrative synthesis was undertaken and the literature was grouped into five broad theoretical approaches: ideational policy theory, problem construction, narratives and frames (including media analysis), construction of target populations, and policy transfer and mobilities. The majority of the studies are focused on single countries and drug policy issues, with few studies undertaking comparative work or reflecting on general theoretical developments in the literature. This study found that the Arksey and O’Malley framework was effective in capturing a potentially diverse field of literature and demonstrates the importance of ideational and social constructionist approaches to drug policy scholarship. Further research is required to achieve expanded geographic coverage, test policy making models and undertake comparative work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-86
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


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