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Mixing drink and drugs: ‘underclass’ politics, the recovery agenda and the partial convergence of English alcohol and drugs policy

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journal contribution
posted on 23.05.2016 by Mark Monaghan, Henry Yeomans
Alcohol policy and illicit drugs policy are typically presented as separate and different in academic discussion. This is understandable, to a degree, as the criminal law upholds a ‘great regulatory divide’ (Seddon) separating the licit trade in alcohol from the illicit trade in substances classified as either class A, B or C under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This paper takes a different stance. In doing so, it draws upon Berridge's argument that policies governing various psychoactive substances have been converging since the mid-twentieth century and seeks to elaborate it using recent developments relating to the control and regulation of drugs and alcohol in the broader areas of criminal justice and welfare reform. Significantly, the article examines how recent policy directions relating to both drugs and alcohol in England have, under the aegis of the ‘recovery agenda’, been connected to a broader behavioural politics oriented towards the actions and lifestyles of an apparently problematic subgroup of the population or ‘underclass’. The paper thus concludes that, although the great regulatory divide remains intact, an underclass politics is contributing towards the greater alignment of illicit drugs and alcohol policies, especially in regards to the respective significance of abstinence (or abstinence-based ‘recovery’).



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

Published in

International Journal of Drug Policy


MONAGHAN, M. and YEOMANS, H., 2016. Mixing drink and drugs: ‘underclass’ politics, the recovery agenda and the partial convergence of English alcohol and drugs policy. International Journal of Drug Policy, 37, pp. 122–128.


© Elsevier


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



This paper was accepted for publication in the journal International Journal of Drug Policy and the definitive published version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2016.02.005






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