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Deviance Theory and Drug Use

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Autor:   •  February 12, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,575 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,624 Views

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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


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