Working with children and adults who misuse drugs and/or alcohol, or who are affected by their use by those around them, although challenging in itself, brings into sharp relief several tensions that surround or pervade social work more generally. To begin with, there is nothing inevitable about the shape or content of the legal rules that are enacted.1 Rather, they reflect the nature of society and its social divisions, which is demonstrated in how diverse European countries have legislated differently with respect to misuse of drugs (EMCDDA, 2005). Consequently, debate and contestation are characteristic of law-making, and the outcome is frequently one that exhibits elements of compromise, moral judgement, lack of clarity and/or political ideology. It can be instructive, therefore, to discern the push-pull dynamics surrounding legislative developments.
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