Article InformationEdit

Title: Science and health policy: the growth of addictology in France

Author(s): Nicolas Fortané

Affiliation: Université Lumière-Lyon 2

Presented At: STiS 2008

Primary Topic Area: Health Policy


This paper offers an analysis the political success in France of the “addiction” as scientific concept. A health policy was built on this notion of addiction at the end of the nineties in order to merge the alcohol and drug addiction care services.

In the past, addictology had to construct, legitimate and assert itself as a main subject in the medical and basic research fields. We will show how neurology, pharmacology and cognitive behaviorism succeeded in imposing their view on the traditional psychiatric and psychoanalytical classifications. These theoretical approaches were developed by some French research fellows who have been studying in American universities in the seventies and the eighties and who have integrated the INSERM (National Institute of Health and Medical Research) in the beginning of the nineties. Based on their own work and on a synthesis of the English-speaking scientific literature they proved the common effects of alcohol, tobacco, drug and cannabis on the brain, especially on the dopaminergic system, also called the reward system.

Since this version of addictology was directly connected to the French health policy issues in the end of the nineties, links were created between the medical and the political fields. The first prevention policy of the entire addictive behavior was born from those links which had the effect to treat all the addiction at the same time instead of dividing the different psychoactive substances. The French Health Department tried actually in 1999 to reform the alcohol and drug addiction care system for economical, legal and cultural reasons. The government could therefore rest on the concept of addiction which was growing up and which provided both policy instruments (addictive behavior classification, therapeutics and prevention tools) and a huge legitimacy.

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