Regulating addictions: the role of the law in the identification and management of addictions – project completed

Project Team

Principal Investigator:

Associate Professor Kate Seear, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University

Contact Person:

Associate Professor Kate Seear, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University


This study is funded by an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship (DE160100134). It explores the role of the law in the identification and management of addictions. Although the role of the criminal law in the regulation of drugs and addiction is well-known, addiction and drug use figure in a range of other legal realms, and these areas are sometimes overlooked. Legal realms are often constituted in fundamentally distinct ways, with different legal standards and proofs, legislative frameworks, available remedies and personnel. The aim of the study is to identify how addiction is conceptualised by key stakeholders across different legal fields and to isolate similarities and differences in understanding and approaches. These issues are explored through four main datasets: interviews with legal practitioners, interviews with judicial decision makers (including judges and magistrates), analyses of cases decided in several different areas of law and analyses of statutes in which addiction features. The study also seeks to isolate areas where further research may be needed, along with opportunities to improve the role that legal systems can have in AOD and addiction management that is consistent with the most recent critical thinking on AOD and social studies of addiction concepts.

The project began as a pilot study funded by the SSAC program via Curtin University. Conducted in conjunction with Professor Suzanne Fraser, Program Leader of SSAC, it has generated a number of outputs to date. These include publications examining:

  • how lawyers account for addiction in their work and the crucial role that lawyers appear to play in stabilising addiction ‘facts’;
  • the gendered dimensions of lawyers’ work in the stabilisation and maintenance of ‘facts’ about addiction, particularly in relation to family violence;
  • the constitution of addicted ‘realities’, including ‘collateral realities’ in relation to alcohol and other drugs, through legal approaches to gambling addiction;
  • the logics associated with the establishment of specialist ‘problem-solving’ courts designed to address addiction;
  • how compensation schemes conceptualise the relevance – and links – between being a victim of crime who also has a history of drug use/addiction.

More information on these publications can be found below:



Spivakovsky, C., Seear, K., and Carter, A. (Eds.). (2018). Critical perspectives on coercive interventions: Law, medicine and society. Routledge.


Spivakovsky, C., Seear, K., & Carter, A. (2018). Coercive interventions in law and medicine: setting the scene. In C. Spivakovsky, K. Seear, & A. Carter (Eds.), Critical Perspectives on Coercive Interventions (pp. 1-9). Routledge.


Seear, K. (2019). Addiction in the Australian legal system: Findings and recommendations from a qualitative project. Monash University.  

Journal articles

Seear, K., Fraser, S., & Boyd, S. (2021). A highly charged field: Mapping energies, currents and desires for reform in Canadian expert responses to drug law. International Journal of Drug Policy, 91, 102936-102936.

Seear, K. (2020). Addressing alcohol and other drug stigma. Where to next? Drug and Alcohol Review, 39, 109-113. 

Seear, K. (2019). Do law clinics need trigger warnings? Philosophical, pedagogical and practical concerns. Legal Education Review, 29, 1-23. 

Seear, K., Bliss, L., Galowitz, P. & Klein, C. (2019). Exploring the role of emotions in clinical legal education: Inquiry and results from an international workshop for legal educators. The Law Teacher, 53(4), 487-499. 

Seear, K., & Fraser, S. (2018). Euthanasia for what? Attending to the role of stigma in addiction-related ‘intractable suffering’ and ‘incurability’. Addiction, 113(7), 1181-1182. (Invited commentary). 

Barratt, M. J., Seear, K., & Lancaster, K. (2017). A critical examination of the definition of ‘psychoactive effect’ in Australian drug legislation. International Journal of Drug Policy, 40, 16–25. 

Seear, K. (2017). The emerging role of lawyers as addiction ‘quasi-experts’.  International Journal of Drug Policy, 44, 183-191.

Spivakovsky, C. & Seear, K. (2017). Making the abject: Problem-solving courts, addiction, mental illness and impairment. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 31(3), 458-469.

Seear, K., & Fraser, S. (2016). Addiction veridiction: Gendering agency in legal mobilisations of addiction discourse. Griffith Law Review, 25(1), 13-29. 
Sifris, R., Seear, K., & Grant, G. (2016). Gender, health and the law: Opportunities and challenges for reform. Griffith Law Review, 25(1), 1-12.

Seear, K. (2015). Making addiction, making gender: A feminist performativity analysis of Kakavas v Crown Melbourne Limited. Australian Feminist Law Journal, 41(1), 65-85.

Seear, K., & Fraser, S. (2014). The addict as victim: Producing the ‘problem’ of addiction in Australian victims of crime compensation laws. International Journal of Drug Policy, 25(5), 826-835.

Seear, K., & Fraser, S (2014). Beyond criminal law: The multiple constitution of addiction in Australian legislation. Addiction Research & Theory, 22(5), 438-450.

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