- drugs, drug addictionThese terms generally refer to illegal drugs, although the social significance of alcohol, tobacco, and tranquillizers should be noted (for example regarding health). The diverse origins of illegal drugs include natural plants and manufactured synthetics. Research shows that patterns of use, behaviour, and subjective experience will be influenced by particular properties of drugs but also by social factors, such as culture and expectations (see, for example. Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence, London, Drug Abuse Briefing, 1991). Most commonly used is cannabis, but greatest social concern is aroused by heroin, and more recently crack/cocaine, LSD, amphetamine, and Ecstasy. Prohibitions on drug use are relatively recent; use of opiates as remedies and intoxicants was common during the nineteenth century (see, Opium and the People, 1987).The concept of addiction is unhelpful: it suggests a dependency with grave consequences for the individual and society. Not all drug-users develop dependency nor do such consequences inevitably follow; the term ‘problem drug-user’ is therefore increasingly favoured. Regarding crime , the dominant thesis is that regular drug use, coupled with the illegality of supply, forces users to commit crime to pay for drugs; however, whether drug use leads to involvement in crime, or involvement in delinquent life-styles introduces a person to drug use, is debated. HIV transmission via shared syringes has encouraged the aim of minimizing harm associated with use, challenging the traditional pursuit of abstinence. Calls for decriminalization are regularly made, but legislative change seems unlikely, at least in the short term.
Dictionary of sociology. 2013.
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