Full version Deviance Theory And Drug Use

Deviance Theory And Drug Use

This print version free essay Deviance Theory And Drug Use.

Category: Social Issues

Autor: reviewessays 12 February 2011

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Theories of Deviance Applied to Drug Use

Since the dawn of society there have been people whose behavior differed from the rest of society. There are many different theories and perspectives on why people do things like abuse drugs, and although we my never have all the answers, sociology still help us to understand the problem better.

In order to understand the theories of deviance, and apply them to drug use in our society one must first understand what deviance is. Alex Thio defines deviance as “an act that is considered […] to be a violation of some social rule” (448). Social rules that delineate how individuals in a society should behave are called norms. There are two types of norms: mores and folkways. Mores are strong norms that specify behavior and constitute demands- most mores are laws. Folkways are weak norms influencing behavior within a society- folkways usually relate to proper etiquette in a society (Thio 42-44).

There are three factors that influence whether an act is considered deviant. The first is time period, the second is location, and the third is public consensus. Different time periods have different norms. An example of this is, how until 1865 Americans were allowed to have slaves; however, in 2003 having a slave would be a violation of mores. Deviance is also limited to location. In some countries it is okay for young children to have alcohol with meals, but not in the United States and Canada. Not only do time and location factor into identifying deviance, but also so does public consensus. There is not a law that states one must not blow his or her nose on his or her neighbor’s shirt, but almost no one does that. It would be a violation of one of societies folkways (Thio 44,142).

There are two main types of deviance, criminal and non-criminal. Non-criminal deviance violates a norm, but not necessarily a law. Non-criminal deviance is usually not formally punished, but may have unfavorable results. An example of non-criminal deviance would be homosexuality or use of pornographic materials. Criminal deviance on the other hand violates both a norm and a law. Criminal deviance is punishable by law enforcers. Examples of criminal deviance include: rape, murder, robbery, and what the focus of this paper- drug abuse (Thio 143-144).

There are three main perspectives relating to sociology and deviance: Conflict perspective, Functionalism, and Symbolic Interactionist. The conflict perspective gives a rather negative view of society. It states that society is always changing and that change results in competition. There are two main ideas being discussed my conflict theorists: power theory and conflict theory (Thio 11). Power theory suggests that those who have more control in society will use it to manipulate those with no power (Flory 2). Conflict theory ask, “Who makes the rules and who benefits from their enforcement” (Deviance 1).

Functionalism is a more positive outlook; it states that every society is made up of interdependent parts and each segment serves a function. When applying this perspective to deviance there are three main parts: Merton’s strain theory, Durkhiem’s functionalist theory, and Hirschi’s control theory (Thio150-152). Merton’s strain theory proposes that society sets high goals that one may not achieve through legitimate means (Flory 1). Durkhiem’s functionalist theory introduces the idea of anomie a condition of deregulation that was occurring in society, and people did not know what to expect from one another. This causes some individuals to detach from society and find their own way of achieving goals (Durkhiem 1). Hirschi’s control theory suggests when people cannot form strong bonds within society; they form a subculture, and develop their own norms (Overview 2).

The third perspective is the symbolic interactionist theory. Symbolic interactionism provides a micro view of society; instead of focusing on how the individual affects society, interactionism talks about how society affects the individual (Thio 13). Symbolic interactionism consists of two parts: Differential association theory and labeling theory. Differential association theory suggests that an individual socialized in a culture where both legitimate and illegitimate ways to achieve ones goals are practiced will have a different interpretation of right and wrong than someone who is grew up in the majority of society (Cloward 1). The Labeling theory states that once you label someone as deviant they will conform to that label, and the traits associated with that label will manifest in the individual (Flory 2)

These three theories can be used to develop various causes of deviance in the form of drug abuse. Conflict theorists may say that deviance in the form of drug use may be more prevalent in poor areas because the poor have fewer means to earn legitimate money, and to survive by normal means; so they are forced into a life of drug dealing and drug abuse (Chapter4 1). To apply this to the power theory one might say that more powerful people participate in more lucrative forms of deviance such as insider trading; so the less powerful people turn to less profitable forms of deviance like drug abuse (Thio 154).

Functionalists have a different perspective on the cause of drug abuse. Strain theorists may claim that drugs help create an escape for those who cannot cope with reality (Thio 147). The functionalist theory purposed by Durkhiem proposes that drug abuse may create jobs for people who don’t have any of the traits necessary to earn a place in the legal work force. Control theorists would say that drug abusers does not have strong enough bonds with people who follow the norms of society (Houts 1).

Symbolic interactionists would look at the problem in one of three ways. A follower of the differential association theory might say one sees other members of one’s subculture abusing or dealing drugs, and they learn to perceive that as normal (Houts 2). The labeling theory suggests an individual may have been labeled a drug addict and experienced a change in his or her self image and became a drug addict, or because he or she were given that label were denied some opportunities, and had to resort to that life style to survive (Flory 2).

Not only do these theories help us determine the cause of drug abuse, but also it’s effect on society. Conflict theorists would say that drug abuse creates a chance for lawmakers to exploit the poor. For example, crack, a substance primarily abused by the poor, has harsher punishments and controls on it than cocaine, a substance abused more often by the rich. Power theorist would call attention to the fact that African Americans and Latinos have a higher percentage of imprisonment than whites for possession of a drug that whites use more than African Americans and Latino’s combined (Houts 2).

Functionalists on the other hand would draw attention to its benefits. Drug abuse creates jobs for people in the field of law enforcement. Drugs abuse creates a means of educating the young, and helping maintain conformity in society. Drug abuse also benefits those using it by giving them a safety valve (Thio 150-151).

Symbolic Internationalists believe that drug abuse creates a negative image of minorities, and the poor. Drug abuse isolates people who need to form social ties with the rest of society. Drug abuse breeds delinquency in the youth of the culture. Drug use also leads to more unfavorable violations of the law (Thio 154-156).

Once the cause and the effect of drug use are apparent, one should consider possible ways to avoid this type of deviance. For example, a conflict theorist might argue that there should be less of a separation of power between the different echelons of society. Equalizing the numbers of opportunities available to the different economic classes would also be beneficial (Thio 154).

Functionalists would argue that eliminating drug use would be harmful to society more than it would help it, because all parts of society serve a purpose. They would, however, concede that such forms of deviance are harmful when they are widespread. To prevent it from becoming too widespread, we should teach people the skills necessary to participate in society and flourish in a legitimate job. Another solution would be socializing drug users with the rest of society (Flory 1-2).

Symbolic interactionist would push for society to resocialize recovering addicts with successful conforming members of society; this would prevent the addict from following the same pattern that caused his drug abuse in the first place (Thio 161). Another way to prevent drug abuse is to educate society, and try to discourage things like racial profiling, stereotypes, and other forms of labeling (Chapter4 2).

These three theories all give different perspectives on why there is deviance like drug abuse, how it affects our society, and ways we can prevent the problems caused. Although these theories may not answer all the questions they help us better understand the way we act, and the actions of society as a whole.

Works Cited

CRIME and DEVIANCE. 8 Dec. 2003 .

< http://www.hewett.norfolk.sch.uk/curric/soc/crime/crim.htm >.

Flory, Jim. Drugs and Deviance. 5 Dec. 2003

< http://www.orednet.org/~jflory/206/drug_out.htm >.

Flory, Jim. The Sociological Perspective and Drug Use. 5 Dec. 2003


Houts, Leslie. Deviance and Criminology. 6 Dec. 2003

Keel, Robert. Social Context of Deviance. Oct.6, 2003. 5 Dec. 2003

< http://www.umsl.edu/~rkeel/200/function.html >.

Theories of Deviance and Social Control. 8 Dec. 1998. 7 Dec. 2003

< http://www.extend.indiana.edu/courses/soc/socs320b/lesson2/DISC2c.HTM >.

Thio, Alex. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. Ohio: Allyn and Bacon, Year of Publication.