Society For The Study Of Addiction

Addiction Lives: Betsy Thom [Annotated Bibliography]

Key reading from Betsy Thom’s body of work, annotated by the author.

Thom B. (1986) Sex differences in help-seeking for alcohol problems – I. The barriers to help-seeking. British Journal of Addiction 81, 777-788.

This paper, one of a set of three, addressed an important issue at that time – the perceived failure of treatment services to provide appropriate help for women. It highlighted problems such as the stigma faced by alcohol dependent women and the dilemmas faced by women with children who needed treatment. The need for services to provide women-only groups and facilities for women with children are still topics of debate.

Thom B., Tellez C. (1986) A difficult business: Detecting and managing alcohol problems in general practice. British Journal of Addiction 81, 405-418.

Engaging general practitioners in the management of patients with alcohol problems was already a lively topic and this paper added to the understanding of GPs’ perceptions on why they found the task difficult and, often, unwelcome.  The drive to encourage identification and response to problem drinking within general practice continues to present challenges and has led to the development of different approaches, including the recent development of digital IBA approaches.

Thom B. (1999) Dealing with Drink: Alcohol and Social Policy. From Treatment to Management. Free Association Books, London.

The book used an oral history approach to provide an account of factors influencing the development of treatment policy from 1950-1990. This was a time when considerable shifts were taking place in treatment philosophy, the location of treatment services, and the treatment workforce. The shifts towards a whole population approach were just emerging.

Thom B., Herring R. and Judd A. (1999) Identifying alcohol-related harm in young drinkers: The role of accident and emergency departments. Alcohol and Alcoholism 34 (6), 910-915.

Early identification and brief advice on alcohol consumption was becoming an important issue and attendance at A&E departments was seen as a suitable point for intervention – the ‘teachable moment’. This paper was part of a project to investigate the extent to which hospital staff could be engaged in this task. It was part of a much wider interest in reaching individuals before their drinking became dependent.

Hodgson R., Alwyn T., John B., Thom B. and Smith A. (2002) The Fast Alcohol Screening Test. Alcohol and Alcoholism 37 (1), 61-66.

The problems of identification and the need for a suitable instrument to identify problem drinking had emerged from research in hospital settings. Collaborative work, led by Ray Hodgson, developed the FAST screening questionnaire (based on the AUDIT) specifically for use in busy A&E departments. It continues to be widely used.

Thom B. Herring R., Bayley M., Waller S., Berridge V. (2013) Partnerships: Survey respondents’ perceptions of inter-professional collaboration to address alcohol-related harms in England. Critical Public Health, 23 (1): 62-76.  

The move towards collaborative working across service sectors had been happening in the health care sector for some time. This was the first project to consider partnership working in the alcohol field. Alcohol had been acknowledged as one of the ‘wicked’ problems which could not be addressed without interprofessional collaboration.  The project (and the paper) highlighted very similar challenges to those encountered in other health and social care domains but emphasised the overall belief that partnership was the way forward for patient/ client care.

Beccaria F., Eincert S., Thom B. (eds) (2013) Stakeholders in substitution treatment in six European countries. Substance Use and Misuse Vol. 48 (11). Special Issue.

This special issue has papers from England, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Austria and Finland. It was part of a European project (Alice Rap). The work package examined stakeholder involvement in different aspects of drug and alcohol policy. Apart from editing, my contribution was:

Thom B., Duke K., Asmussen Frank V., Bjerje B. (2013) Stakeholders in opioid substitution treatment: Similarities and differences in six European countries. Substance Use and Misuse 48 (11): 933-942.
Duke K., Herring R., Thickett A., Thom B. (2013) Substitute prescribing in the era of ‘recovery’: an analysis of stakeholder roles and policy windows in Britain. Substance Use and Misuse 48 (11):1082-6084.

Toner P., Lloyd C., Thom B., MacGregor S., Godfrey C., Hering R., Tchilingirian J. (2014) Perceptions on the role of evidence: An English alcohol policy case study. Evidence & Policy 10 (1): 93-112.

This paper challenges the notion of ‘evidence’ based policy by reflecting the many different views regarding what is understood by ‘evidence’ and what is considered as ‘evidence’ in different contexts. The data were drawn from a larger study on the evaluation of a national Alcohol Improvement Programme. 

Thom, B., Herring, R., Thickett, A. and Duke, K. (2016) The Alcohol Health Alliance: The emergence of an advocacy coalition to stimulate policy change. British Politics 11 (3): 301-323.

This was also part of the Alice Rap work package on stakeholder dynamics. Advocacy around health and alcohol consumption had been growing over some years but, in contrast to research on alcohol industry activity, had received little attention. This paper considered how one advocacy group had emerged and consolidated its position in an attempt to influence alcohol policy.

Butler, S., Elmeland, K., Nicholls, J. and Thom, B. (2017) Alcohol, power and public health: A comparative study of alcohol policy. Routledge, Abingdon UK.

The book compares the development of alcohol policy in Ireland, Denmark, England and Scotland. It draws on a policy science framework to look at how and why the WHO ‘ideal’ was adopted to a greater extent in some countries than in others. The country case studies highlight how complex social and political dynamics shape policy decision-making.

The opinions expressed in this commentary reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official positions of the Society for the Study of Addiction.