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Shagun Chopra



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Addiction is an individual conduct that is controlled at a societal level. Over the most recent years, the addiction of liquor and different drugs by the youth worldwide has increased significant consideration as a noteworthy societal issue. Drug use refers to the use of psychoactive substances, that is to say, substances that affect mood and mentation (the ability to think) and functioning in its most general sense (perceptions, judgments, decision-making, actions, responses, etc.). The term ‘‘drugs’’ includes legal substances such as tobacco, coffee, alcohol; pharmaceuticals usually available on medical prescription including tranquilizers, sedative hypnotics, or stimulants that may be used in a medically sanctioned context or for recreational purposes; illegal substances such as heroin, marijuana, cocaine, crack, and others; traditional substances such as psilocybin mushrooms, kava, betel nuts, etc. (Adrian,2003).

Drug addict and alcoholic roles and identities imply that substances have become a more all-encompassing activity around which the self is organized (roles) and defined (identities). It has emerged as a series of “epidemics” of abuse of different drugs affecting different age, sex , socioeconomic groups at different historical times and in different countries (Robins, 1980). Globally, 5.0% of the world’s population between the ages of 15 and 64—200 million people—reported using at least one illicit drug in the previous year and Cannabis is the most widely used drug. The prevalence of drug use varies by country and region and that some variations in drug use may result from variations in drug policies.

Several sociological theories like that of functionalism, conflict theory and symbolic interactionism can be applied to explain the advent of drug abuse.

Functionalism holds that society is a perplexing framework whose different parts cooperate to deliver steadiness and solidarity. As indicated by this approach, the train of human science ought to research the relationship of parts of society to each other and to society all in all. It views society as a system : set of interconnected parts which together forms a whole (Class notes). Drug abuse is functional for a few gatherings in the society. It gives sedate clients the different positive physiological impacts that drugs have ; it gives the venders of lawful or illegal drugs a provenance of money; and it gives employments to the criminal equity framework and several other organisations that deal with it. In the meantime, both lawful medications and illegal medications add to dysfunctions in the public arena. . Critics of functionalism have argued that it pictures the individual having little or no control over his/her own actions. Rather than consulting their own social world, members of society appear to be directed by a system. It is not the consciousness of the individual which directs his behaviour but common beliefs and sentiments around him which transcend the individual and shape his consciousness ( Haralambos , 1980). An individual therefore indulges himself in drug abuse due to several external factors like the pressure of fitting in, peer pressure, depression etc. As society becomes more complex and as rapid social change occurs, norms and values become unclear and ambiguous, resulting in anomie—a state of normlessness. Anomie may exist at the societal level, resulting in social strains and inconsistencies that lead to drug use (e.g., rapid social change or inconsistent cultural norms). Anomie may also exist at the individual level, as when a person suffers feelings of estrangement, isolation, and turmoil over appropriate and inappropriate behaviour . Drug use is thus a response to the absence of a perceived bond between the individual and society and to the weakening of a consensus regarding what is considered acceptable

Conflict theory: According to the conflict theory society is viewed as an arena that generates conflict and change (Class notes). Conflict theory has also been applied to the current trends of drug abuse, finding that societal and social class position effect one's rate of drug abuse. Drug use occurs in response to inequalities perpetuated by capitalism: individuals turn to drugs as a means of escaping oppression and frustration. More specifically, "Conflict theory holds that there are higher numbers of chronic drug abusers found in lower social classes, disorganized neighbourhoods. lower income families, and relatively politically powerless places." Lo (2003) found that, in accordance with conflict theory, social environments negatively effect inequality "...widespread poverty and severe social disorganization, lacking legitimate opportunities as well as adequate education and training, have a [strong] association with opiate and cocaine use." (Wikipedia)

Conflict theory stresses the negative effects of social inequality and the efforts of the elites at the top of society’s hierarchy to maintain their position. This theory helps us understand drugs and drug use in at least three respects.

 First, and as noted just earlier, much drug use in poor urban zones results from the neediness, racial imbalance, and different conditions influencing individuals in these areas.. They turn to illegal drugs partly to feel better about their situation, and partly because the illegal drug market is a potentially great source of income that does not require even a high school degree.

Second, conflict theory emphasizes that racial and ethnic prejudice and inequality help determine why some drugs are illegal as well as the criminal penalties for these drugs. For example, the penalties for crack are much harsher, gram for gram, than those for powder cocaine, even though the two drugs are pharmacologically identical. Crack users are primarily poor African Americans in urban areas, while powder cocaine users are primarily whites, many of them at least fairly wealthy. These facts prompt many observers to say that the harsher penalties for crack are racially biased (Tonry, 2011). Other evidence for this argument of conflict theory is seen in the history of the illegality of opium, cocaine, and marijuana. As we discussed earlier, racial and ethnic prejudice played an important role in why these common drugs in the nineteenth century became illegal: prejudice against Chinese immigrants for opium, prejudice against African Americans for cocaine, and prejudice against Mexican Americans for marijuana.

Third, conflict theory emphasizes the huge influence that multinational corporations have in the marketing and sale of the legal drugs—alcohol, tobacco, and many prescription drugs—that often have harmful individual and societal consequences. To maximize their profits, these companies do their best, as noted earlier, to convince Americans and people in other nations to use their products. They also spend billions of dollars to lobby Congress. As also mentioned earlier, the tobacco industry hid for years evidence of the deadly effects of its products. All these efforts illustrate conflict theory’s critical view of the role that corporations play in today’s society. (Unknown author, 2010)

Symbolic Interactionist Perspective: Symbolic interactionism is concerned with the “inner”, or phenomenological aspects of human behaviour. In Blumer’s view, symbolic interactionism rests on three basic premises. Firstly, human beings act on the basis of meanings which they give to objects rather than simply reacting to external stimuli such as social forces or internal stimuli such as organic drives. Secondly, meanings arise from the process of interaction rather than simply being present at the outset and shaping future action. Thirdly, meanings are the result of interpretive procedures employed by actors within interaction contexts. (Haralambos and Heald,1980. P. p:546). Symbolic interaction concentrates on the social meanings associated with drug use. If the first drug intake of an individual is pleasurable there are chances that he/she might resort to it again and soon turn into a “drug addict” over time. From this sort of interaction, an individual figures out how to utilize a drug and furthermore learns different states of mind that legitimize drug abuse and characterize the impacts of a medication as impacts that are pleasing.

Reference list

1.    Adrian, M. (2003). How Can Sociological Theory Help Our Understanding of Addictions? Substance Use & Misuse, 38(10), 1385-1423. doi:10.1081/JA-120023391

2.    The natural history of drug abuse, Lee N. Robins Ph.D. published: August 1980

3.    Sociological themes and perspectives, M Haralambos with R M Heald, 1980.

4.    Social problems : continuity and change, unknown author, 2010.

5.    Wikipedia

6.    Class notes


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