Drugs And Their Usage Sociology Essay Example
Drugs And Their Usage Sociology Essay Example

Drugs And Their Usage Sociology Essay Example

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This chapter will examine the history of drugs and their usage. It will discuss the shift from drugs being used by royalty to becoming more common among lower social classes, as well as the association of drug use with creative individuals and job seekers.

After conducting research on drug usage throughout history, our focus will be on the use of drugs during the 1980s recession and the specific individuals involved. This time period is of particular interest because it represents a previous recession, which although may not have been as long-lasting as the current one we are facing, provides insight into the potential devastation this recession will leave in its wake for lower income individuals and youth. We will also examine the economic impact on drug prices, as the illegal drug market is influenced by the broader economy, similar to legal markets.

A brief o


verview of drug history and usage.

The use of Opium (Heroin) dates back to around 5000bc. Marijuana was initially used for medicinal purposes in China in 2727bc, with its use as an alcoholic beverage traced back to 1000bc in India. Between 700-600bc, marijuana was utilized for spiritual purposes by the Persians, who referred to it as a 'good narcotic'. Additionally, many followers of Islam consider it a substitute for alcohol consumption, which is prohibited under Islamic law (Efere, 2005). By the nineteenth century, Queen Victoria's physician even recommended its use for medical reasons.

The use of marijuana for recreational purposes became increasingly popular after originating in the Jazz Clubs of London during the 1950s. By the 1960s, its usage had significantly risen, prompting governments to implement stricter supervision and regulation out of concerns that it

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could act as a gateway drug. Among various drugs, cocaine was initially favored by the upper class, including Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill. It was even available for purchase at Harrods in London until 1916. In the nineteenth century, drug consumption was associated with middle-class women and professional men who had what was known as a "drug habit." The responsibility for this addiction fell solely on the individual and did not involve society as a whole. The fact that certain individuals succumbed to personal weaknesses did not justify a public response aimed at restricting access to substances such as opium or cocaine, nor did it warrant criminalizing their non-medical use.

In 1865, Dr Norman Kerr, an addiction specialist, coined the term 'narcomania' to describe the perceived pathological cravings for drugs. He viewed drug addiction as a disease that affected the lower class in Britain, as well as occasionally targeting wealthier individuals whose main focus in life was seeking pleasure (Daly & Sampson, 2012). The concept of the "dope monster" shifted the perception of drug use to be seen as a problem among a whole species rather than just middle-class individuals, leading to drug consumption becoming a matter for the police. Certain drugs were made illegal not due to their pharmacology, but due to their association with social groups deemed "dangerous" (Plant et al, 2011). In the 1960s, societal concerns arose around groups like the Mods and Rockers.

According to Cohen (Shiner, 2009), there were individuals who behaved like Satan during presentations, exhibiting force and deviancy. These individuals served as visible reminders of what people should not be. The association of these individuals with the use of pep

pills caused significant concerns about drug use among young people. Cocaine experienced periods of popularity and disdain similar to other drugs. By 1970, its popularity had resurfaced (Shiner, 2009). Currently, Britain ranks among South America and the United States in terms of having the highest per-head cocaine consumption in the world (Daly & Sampson, 2012). Numerous high-profile celebrities contributed to cocaine's status as a symbol of wealth and success (Efere, 2005). In 2010, the United Nations acknowledged that celebrity culture was influencing British society and eroding traditional values such as hard work and sobriety. London gained the label 'Cocaine Capital of Europe' (Daly & Sampson, 2012) due to its citizens being twice as likely to have used cocaine compared to other European citizens (Daly & Sampson, 2012). Although the concept of a 'drug problem' may seem recent, its origins can be traced back thousands of years (Hanson et al., 2009).

The popularity of drug use has shifted from higher social classes to lower social classes, resulting in a negative perception of drug users among the lower classes. This shift has given rise to the concept of the "problem drug user" (Efere, 2005). Additionally, the demographics of drug users have significantly changed (Shiner, 2009).

Over time, drugs have become more prevalent in mainstream society. Government statistics reveal that around 25% of individuals aged 50-69 and one-third of those in their 40s admit to having used drugs at some point in their lives. However, specific drugs and frequency are not specified. Furthermore, over half of individuals aged 20-39 have engaged in drug use. These contrasting percentages clearly illustrate societal changes that have occurred (Daly & Sampson, 2012).

Although the drugs

themselves have remained relatively unchanged, significant transformations have taken place within society (Efere, 2005).

The most commonly used drugs in the UK include cannabis, cocaine, rapture, velocity, Ketalar, and thaumaturgy mushrooms. These drugs account for only 50% of total drug expenditure in the UK. The other half is spent by a minority who consume diacetylmorphine and cleft cocaine. These highly addictive drugs lead to increased consumption and dependence, becoming the main focus of their lives (Daly & Sampson, 2012).

The recession of the 1980s had a significant impact and coincided with a heroin epidemic (Buchanan, 2006). In the early 80s, there were fewer than 3000 known heroin users. However, by 1987, this number had tripled to around 10,000 (Robertson cited in Buchanan). The heroin epidemic in the 80s caused more concern than the previous outbreak in the 1960s due to doctors over-prescribing the drug for medical use. Heroin users during this time were younger individuals often unemployed and still living with their families. They had limited education and came from socially deprived areas (Buchanan; Young as cited in Buchanan). In contrast, heroin users in the 1960s were more privileged individuals primarily residing in London. They had minimal connections to social and economic positions and weak ties to crime as stated by Stimson cited in Seddon (2006).

During the 1980s epidemic, the perception of drug users in society underwent a significant shift. They were now viewed as working-class youth residing in disadvantaged areas (Buchanan, 2006) and were strongly associated with social disadvantage (Seddon, 2006). The neighborhoods impacted by heroin experienced an uptick in various crimes like theft, prostitution, drug dealing, and unemployment (Seddon, 2006). These issues had already been

prevalent due to the decline of these areas resulting from deindustrialization. However, the arrival of heroin expedited their deterioration. This change in societal perception also brought about a transformation in how drug users were treated; they became a matter of concern for society as a whole. This division between "us" and "them" originated from a government campaign that portrayed drugs as lethal, rebellious, and foreign through the "heroin prison guards you up" campaign (McGregor cited in Buchanan, 2006). Buchanan (2006) discusses this division further emphasized by the police response to address the drug problem and identify it as an enemy (Maning cited in Buchanan, 2006). Such division possesses the potential to erode family and community connections ultimately leading to certain sectors of society collapsing (Flint cited in Buchanan, 2006). The emotionally charged language used in these campaigns and responses aimed at isolating drug users from society.According to Buchanan (2006), it was the responsibility of the police to protect those who were vulnerable during the epidemic. This included addressing the rise in crime caused by individuals resorting to theft in order to fund their addiction.

According to Wilkinson (cited in Buchanan, 2006), these steps were ineffective in reducing the 'epidemic' of drug use and instead pushed it further into the criminal underworld. This led to an increase in criminal activity by users and sellers, posing higher risks to both the community and drug users compared to heroin use initially. Concurrently, the rise in drug-related offenses also reflected the growing drug problem itself, which was strongly linked to the increasing desire for drugs (Seddon, 2006). Seddon (2006) emphasizes the need to understand how culture influences structural forces that

shape individual and collective actions. Hirschi (cited in Warr, 2002), however, denies any connection between drug use and criminality, arguing that they are separate issues with some shared causes such as lack of self-control, placing the responsibility on individuals rather than society (Warr, 2002). Additionally, Jock Young (2003) and his interpretation of Merton's theory of anomie emphasize the disconnect between cultural inclusion and structural exclusion as a key factor contributing to societal issues (Hayward and Young cited in Seddon, 2006). Overall, understanding the interconnectedness of structure, culture, and agency can provide insights into society.The approach to addressing the drug issue has primarily involved reducing drug supply and implementing prevention measures, with minimal emphasis on understanding the reasons behind drug use and the individuals involved (HMSO cited in Buchanan, 2006). However, in 1985, the Social Services Committee recognized the impact of unemployment and resulting poverty, stating that drug services were too focused on the scientific and medical aspects and called for further investigation into the social dimension (Buchanan, 2006).

There are mixed opinions on Margaret Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister in regards to the relationship between drugs and the economic system. However, under Thatcher's leadership, the United Kingdom underwent significant changes, particularly deindustrialization. This resulted in devastated communities without alternatives, leading to high unemployment rates and cities like Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow experiencing a drastic decline. In these cities, Pearson (1987) discovered that certain communities had unemployment rates above 40%, with a significant heroin problem affecting 45% to 66% of individuals. Research conducted by Buchanan and Wyke (1987) in Sefton, Liverpool, an area greatly impacted by these changes, revealed that heroin was being used as a means

to fill the void left by the lack of legitimate employment opportunities (Buchanan & Wyke cited in Buchanan, 2006).Additional research conducted in Bootle, Sefton by Buchanan and Young (1995) underscored the acceptance of diacetylmorphine as a viable choice among individuals marginalized by the failing job market. The limited opportunities available within the country dissuade these individuals from pursuing a drug-free lifestyle (Buchanan;A;Young cited in Buchanan, 2006).

Since the 1980's, drug issues have had a significant impact on communities already burdened by socio-economic problems (Pearson cited in Seddon, 2006). According to Pearson, unemployment and community stagnancy have made it difficult for young people to establish meaningful identities (Pearson cited in Buchanan 2006). Preble & Casey argue that heroin use serves as an escape from the demanding life that young people should be experiencing during the transition from youth to adulthood (Preble & Casey cited in Buchanan, 2006). The allure of drugs affects an underclass of unqualified, unskilled and unemployed young adults in predominantly disadvantaged urban areas (Parker cited in Buchanan, 2006).

The economy of drug prices.

Politicians and the media often shape public perceptions of the drug markets.

The text suggests that by emphasizing the perceived differences between the vulnerable buyers and the opportunistic sellers, who are seen as outsiders in the community they exploit, it becomes easier to depict the sellers as a menace to society. This further contributes to the prevailing 'war on drugs' mentality (May et al, 2005). In 2001, HM Treasury released a statement regarding the allocation of new funds to combat drugs, declaring that "hardly a household is unaffected by the immorality of drugs."

Drug-related offenses have damaging effects on our communities, inflicting harm on households

and young lives, while also contributing to different criminal activities like burglary and robbery.

We will not tolerate drugs in our communities as it leads to misery and loss of life. The additional funding provided will empower agencies to increase their efforts in combating drugs and the resulting crime, removing drug dealers from our children's lives, placing them behind bars, and protecting our communities (Buchanan, 2004 p4). This campaign against drugs can be more accurately described as a campaign against drug users (Buchanan & Young cited in Buchanan, 2004), further marginalizing those struggling with drug problems.

The 'enemy within' label is given to drug users who have consistently failed to transition from childhood to maturity, and this label adds to their already strained ego. According to Drucker, the effects of criminalization and demonization of these individuals can be more harmful than the drugs themselves. However, in reality, most drug sellers are from the local community and sell to others who also engage in drug use to fund their own habits. Therefore, there is no malicious outsider exploiting the community; instead, the drug market is created and sustained within the community due to larger societal issues. The results indicate that individuals primarily obtain drugs from close relationships and social circles within their community rather than from predatory outsiders. The accessibility table shows the availability of drugs (source: Home Office, 2012). Those involved in the drug market, including users and sellers, often claim to have a monopoly over criminal activity in the area. With a large group of drug users and sellers sharing common goals and interests, their collective power outweighs that of individual or small-time groups.

The drug collective

maintains control over condemnable activity, preventing other crimes and allowing the drug community to operate normally with less police attention. A Joseph Rowntree Study investigated the Byrne Valley community, and one respondent noted that "the area is controlled by drug traders, they do not allow any sh*t go on." This suggests that the only crime occurring is within the drug circles, and the rest of the community is protected from other criminal activities (May et al, 2005).

Chapter three: Economic Issues.

In this chapter, we will briefly explore the current economic climate, with a specific focus on the UK. The recession will be discussed in relation to how it is impacting the economy differently for different age and income groups. This will help answer the question of how the macro-economy is affecting the micro-economy and its subsequent effects on local areas and lives.

As the economy shrinks, the number of job vacancies decreases and hours are being cut, which means there are fewer hours to spread among a larger group of people. This leads to an examination of lifestyle standards, specifically looking at how the economy affects individuals' daily lives and the potential consequences for the future.

An overview of the current economic climate.

Across Europe, youth unemployment rates are, on average, twice as high as adult unemployment rates. The OECD estimates that youth unemployment is twice as sensitive to business cycles compared to adults. This aligns with OECD (2008) findings that youth unemployment rates are more affected by changes in the business cycle, although the influence decreases as individuals age.

The OECD, cited in Bell, A. and Blanchflower, 2010, reported that in 2008, the UK officially entered a recession for

the first time since 1991. The UK GDP dropped in the last two quarters of 2008 at a steep rate. By late 2009, the recession had lasted for five quarters, which was comparable to the length of the recessions in 1980 and 1990 (Audit Commission, 2009). The 2008/9 recession caused a significant decline in the UK's gross domestic product by 5.5% between the second quarter of 2008 and the second quarter of 2009, marking the largest annual drop recorded. The UK was and still is experiencing a 'depression', with recession levels during the first three months being as low as those seen during the great depression of the 1930s (Vaitilingam, 2009). In previous recessions, there was a 4.1% decline in the last quarter of 1980 compared to the previous year, and a drop of 2.2% in the second quarter of 1991 compared to the previous year (Vaitilingam, 2009).

Business investing has experienced its most dramatic decline in 24 years, with capital spending also dropping by 10% by the second quarter of 2009, and overall investment decreasing by 18% compared to the previous year. These figures are the worst recorded since 1967 (Vaitilingam, 2009). Inequality in Britain has been steadily increasing since 1979, with only a minor decline during the early stages of the current recession in 2008/9, which affected the wealth accumulation of the wealthiest individuals in society (Dorling, 2012). The impact of this recession differs greatly between the top percentile and lower percentiles of society, especially in the last two years. Waitresses' annual wages in the service sector have fallen by 11%, while cleaning staff's salaries have dropped by 3.4%. In contrast, FTSE 100 executives

have experienced a 49% increase in their earnings, and the average top 100 company manager now earns 145 times more than their average worker (Dorling, 2012). According to Ramesh (2012), if current trends continue, by 2035 we will face levels of inequality comparable to those seen in the Victorian Era, and workers will have weaker labor protections than in Mexico (Ramesh cited in Dorling, 2012).

Variations in unemployment rates by age group.

The Office for National Statistics ( ONS ) UK reports a consistent decrease in unemployment rates within the UK from 2007 to 2008. However, there was a significant increase in the number of unemployed individuals seeking work in the UK between 2008 and 2010 ( ONS cited in Home Office UK, 2012 ). It is worth noting that 2008 marked the beginning of the most recent global recession, which impacted not only the UK but also other countries ( Philpott, 2012 ). The magnitude of the recession's impact can be observed through the number of job vacancies in the UK, as recorded by the ONS. In March 2008, job vacancies reached an all-time high with 694,000 openings. However, by June 2009, it hit a new record, but this time a negative one, with only 430,000 vacancies available.

Currently, vacancy rates are not as strong as they were in 2008. In fact, they haven't even reached half of the numbers recorded back then (Office for National Statistics, 2012). Despite a slight decrease in 2011, unemployment levels in 2012 remained at a high level similar to that of 2010. This clearly demonstrates the impact of the 'double dip recession' that the UK is

currently facing (Home Office UK, 2012). Within the same time period of 2008-2012, the most significant increase in unemployment rates is seen when looking at age data. The unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds increased by a substantial 23.2% (Philpott, 2012), marking a record high for this age group. As a result, one in five young adults within working age (16-24) are unemployed, which is three times the number for older adults (Aldridge et al, 2012).

During the 1980s economic downturn, Levitt & Lochner (2001) discovered that young men between the ages of 15-19 were more likely to sell drugs in countries with higher than average unemployment rates (Levitt & Lochner cited in Arkes, 2007). This indicates that drugs are not only more easily accessible through acquaintances, but also that the drug market becomes more concentrated and drug prices decrease, resulting in drugs being more readily available to a wider market. The current unstable economic climate can be seen through the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance. From April 2010 to April 2012, 4.8 million people had claimed JSA (Aldridge et al, 2012), a significant number. Even more concerning is that in the first quarter of 2012, 42% of JSA applications were made within 6 months of the claimant's previous claim (Aldridge et al, 2012). It is not only the financial aspect of unemployment or underemployment that is important, but also the impact it has on an individual's well-being. This can lead to an increasing number of people being out of work due to illnesses such as anxiety, depression, or stress, which will be further examined later in this work.

The minimum wage compared to the

living wage.

Whilst securing employment is difficult, once achieved, the issue of wages becomes apparent.

The current minimum wage for individuals aged 21 and over in the UK is ?6.19 per hour, according to GOV.uk (2013). However, the Living Wage is calculated to be ?7.45 per hour, a difference of ?1.26, as stated by the Living Wage Foundation (2011). Although this may not seem like a significant difference, when considering a person working the average 35 hours per week as defined by the government, the gap between actual earnings and livable wages becomes ?44.10 per week. This can have a significant impact on personal lives and well-being, particularly for families and young people. Financial strains can negatively affect educational outcomes and economic status. A report by the Social Justice Policy Group (2007) found that those who have experienced family breakdown, especially at a young age, are 50% more likely to have alcohol problems, 70% more likely to become addicted to drugs, and 75% more likely to fail school.According to the Child Poverty Action Group (2012), students who receive free meals at school perform, on average, 1.7 GCSE grades lower than their more privileged peers. This poor academic performance can have negative consequences for their future employment opportunities. In a competitive environment, those with lower grades may struggle to find work, and even if they do, they may earn lower salaries compared to those who have higher educational achievements.

Persons with qualifications at degree 4 or above earn on average over 40% more than those with level 3 qualifications, who earn 10% more than those with level 1 or 2 qualifications. This not only affects their lifestyle in youth,

but is likely to continue throughout their lives, reproducing a defeatist attitude and disadvantaged upbringing for their future children (UKPDC, 2012). With the government's goal to reduce child poverty to 10% by 2020 from its current 20% levels (Brewer et al, 2011), decreasing at a concerning rate (Browne; Joyce cited in Brewer et al, 2012), it is unlikely that the future our current youth is facing will be any different to that of the next generation, with the issues outlined in this thesis being reproduced (UKPDC, 2012). With studies conducted by researchers such as Jones et al (2004) and Buchanan; Young (2000), there is a suggestion of a strong correlation between school experience and future drug use.

According to Jones et Al (2004), 54 % of the drug users interviewed had been excluded from school. This information was cited in Buchanan (2004). In addition, Buchanan ; A ; Young (2000) found that 52% of drug users interviewed had not completed their education and did not have any academic or vocational qualifications. The Department for Education and Employment states that only 6% of children leave school without any qualifications. Given the percentages reported by Jones et Al and Buchanan ; A ; Young, there is a significant overrepresentation of individuals without qualifications in the drug-taking community, according to Buchanan (2004). This is concerning, especially if many children are vulnerable to such issues due to family breakdown. In the current economic climate, young people are already struggling to find their way, and additional difficulties will only exacerbate their distress and decrease their chances of successfully transitioning into adulthood. Gilman (1998) has identified 10 key indicators of potential future

addiction and social exclusion.

These were:

  • Mental Health Issues.
  • Initiation into offense.
  • Non-school attending.
  • Unemployment being the norm.
  • Bing in local authorization attention.
  • Homelessness - both kiping rough and/or non holding a topographic point to name place.
  • Heavy usage of legal drugs in early life.
  • Criminally active parent with a history of drug mis-use.
  • Break of household unit.
  • Use of illegal diversion drugs ( Gilman cited in South et al, 1999 ) .

A large proportion of these indicators have been discussed already, with worrying statistical evidence presented alongside highlighting likelihood of school expulsion, parental separation, initiation into offense as a result of non-school attendance and finding alternative activities etc. The following chapter will examine these 'alternative activities' and analyze how the consumption of these activities have changed over time, looking at findings before, during and after recessions and the current rates.

Chapter four: Drug Use.

Here we will explore how drug use is changing for the youth of today in comparison to past generations. We will examine drug use trends and their fluctuations from 1960 to the present day.

Finally, we will compare the changing nature of drug usage for young persons aged 16-24 and the population as a whole aged 16-59 and try to explain

why there may be significant fluctuations in drug usage rates between these groups.

Young persons and drug usage.

Since the 1960s, there has been a continuous steady increase in the prevalence of youth drug taking, with a significant spike in the mid-1990s resulting in an all-time high level of drug usage among young people in Britain. Since 2000, there has been a gradual but noticeable decline, although levels still remain high. By 2007, around one in four teenagers had used an illegal drug in the past 12 months (Aldridge, 2008). According to Roberts (2003), more young people are using drugs now than ever before, with drug usage now being widely perceived as a 'young person's thing' (Roberts cited in Case ; Haines, 2008).

The authorities and associated media have shifted their focus to a new issue in the new millennium. The prevalence of youth drug usage has decreased, but the problem of intoxicant usage and binge drinking remains a concern. Despite the government's aggressive approach to combat drug usage, little attention has been given to understanding its causes and implementing preventative measures. According to Newcombe's research in 1995, the percentage of young adults aged 16-24 reporting illegal drug usage has steadily increased over the decades, from less than 5% in the 1960s to around 10% in the 1970s, and further increasing to 15-20% in the 1980s. The number of people who have used illicit drugs in their lifetime has nearly doubled every decade. The proportion of young people using drugs is on the rise.

The following consequences illustrate the disparities in drug usage between the pre-recession period of 2008/09 and the post-recession period of 2009/10. Specifically, there has been

a notable increase in opiate usage, which is concerning due to earlier studies indicating that opiate users were more prevalent in areas of poor social standing, characterized by inadequate housing, a transient population, a high proportion of broken households, and individuals with low socioeconomic status. This information was found in Dai's research (1970), as cited in Allen (2007). Table 2 presents the trends in drug use among individuals aged 16-24, sourced from Hoare & Mood (2010). It is noteworthy that for those aged 16-59, there is no increase in overall drug usage; instead, a decline is observed in a significant portion of drugs consumed. This further emphasizes that youth may be more vulnerable to drug consumption due to their socio-economic status and their exposure to the effects of macroeconomic declines and societal changes. Conversely, older individuals may exhibit more stability in their socio-economic positions and possess a strong sense of self that enables them to endure adversity. This information is presented in Table 3, focusing on drug use trends.

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