Drug Abuse as a Social Problem: A Look at the Conflict and Functionalist Perspectives

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Drugs have been around for thousands of years. "A drug is any chemical that produces a therapeutic or non-therapeutic effect in the body (Drugs and Teen Substance Abuse 2000.)" Most drugs were first used for medicinal purposes, such as marijuana. Active substances were not extracted into drugs until the 19th century. Newly discovered substances like morphine, laudanum, and cocaine were completely unregulated and prescribed freely by physicians for a wide variety of ailments. Wounded veterans returned home with their kits of morphine and hypodermic needles (History of Drug Abuse, n.d.) The use of illegal drugs is increasing, especially among young teens. The conflict theory of social problems states that, "society is marked by conflict due to inequalities in class, race, ethnicity, gender, age, and other divisions that produce conflicting ideas (Kornblum and Julian, 2004, 7.)" Solutions to solve social problems include building stronger movements in conflicted groups and then possibly engaging in negotiations to reach accommodations. The functionalist approach to social problems, "views society as a vast organism whose parts are interrelated (Kornblum and Julian, 2004, 7.)" Functionalists believe that institutions produce patterns of deviance and they must be addressed through well-calculated social reformations. Solutions include engaging in research and interventions to improve these social institutions. There are many ideas between the conflict and functionalist perspectives on how to remedy the wide-spread social problem of drug abuse.

Substance abuse can simply be defined as, "a pattern of harmful use of any substances for mood-altering purposes (What Is Substance Abuse, n.d.)" As culture and customs change, so do the major categories of illegal drugs. The most commonly abused drugs today, in addition to alcohol, are marijuana, cocaine, opiates (including heroin and morphine), hallucinogens, amphetamines, and barbiturates. Some young people are again experimenting with psychedelic drugs like LSD and Ecstasy (Kornblum and Julian, 2004.) Teens use drugs for many reasons including curiosity, because it feels good, to reduce stress, to feel grown up or to fit in with their peers (Drugs and Teen Substance Abuse 2000.)

Many people view drug abuse and addiction as strictly a social problem. Drug abuse affects society in many ways. In the workplace it is costly in terms of lost work time and inefficiency. More than half the deaths in the United States involve alcohol, in some form, such as in homicides and suicides. Drug-related crimes can disrupt the neighborhoods due to violence among drug dealers, threats to residents, and the crimes of the addicts themselves. Also, a great majority of homeless people have either a drug or alcohol problem (NIDA InfoFacts: Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction, 2005.)

Humans have used drugs of one sort or another for thousands of years. For the past last decades, crime and drugs have been called by some, the most important problems facing this country. The full economic cost of drug abuse in the United States is estimated at approximately $70 billion annually. In so, America is actually losing money because of the use of drugs. Due to years of studies, it is proven that drug abuse costs the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (known as OECD) countries more than $120 billion per year in drug enforcement, prosecutions, prisons, prevention programmers, treatment and health care costs, and financial losses incurred from drug-related crimes. This is very bad for the community as a whole because it also affects many people. In a present study, it was hypothesized that the likelihood of recent hard drug use would be higher among arrest. They have a slight disadvantage because of low income, widespread poverty, high employment rate, limited high school graduation, numerous female-headed household, high population density, and large African-American population.

The...
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