Muddy waters?: Reassessing the dimensions of the normalisation thesis in twenty-first century Britain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In Britain, during the 1990s, there was a sharp increase in recreational drug use, and by the end of the decade, it had reached unprecedented levels. The normalisation thesis offered an explanation for increasing drug trends. It argued that drug use was undergoing a process of normalisation whereby it was becoming more acceptable within mainstream society. Since the millennium, British government statistics have recorded a downward trend in overall drug use, perhaps an early sign that recreational drug use is becoming denormalised in Britain. This paper reconsiders the normalisation thesis drawing on British trend data collected since the millennium. It argues that evidence is contradictory and it is challenging to reach a conclusion
about the extent of normalisation. At best, the situation fits with the idea of ‘‘differentiated normalisation’’. The analysis presented raises questions about the utility of the concept in the twenty-first century and the paper concludes with a discussion of how it might be developed in the future.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-201
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2016

Related information


View all