Substance Abuse’s effect on American Society: a Sociological Interpretation Amanda Angrisani, RN PCCN
Western Governors University
When turning on the television or opening a newspaper, the American population is faced with disdaining reports of numerous social problems. Social problems are all around us, lurking on every street across America. Obesity, substance abuse, homelessness, and sexuality inequality are a few social problems Americans face on a daily basis. Of the social problems that exist in America, this essay will focus on substance abuse, in particular the rise of heroin abuse and heroin related deaths. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, states that substance abuse kills over 90,000 Americans a year; with the increased use of the highly addictive drug, heroin, these numbers will continue to rise. The National Institute on Drug Abuse replaces the term “substance abuse” with the term “addiction” and defines it as a “chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences” (National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], 2012). Using this definition, it can become apparent as to one reason why heroin is on the rise. When prescription pain medications are not available or affordable, it leaves the user to “compulsive drug seeking”. The user may resort to the cheaper alternative related to opioids, heroin. A study completed at needle-exchange locations located in Washington concludes that 39% of heroin abusers state that they first became addicted to prescribed pain medication (Peavey, 2012). There can be many causes why people abuse drugs; many being individual and internal such as mental illness, family history, and addiction. However, a societal reason may also exist; the presence of drugs surrounding the individual user or the presence of drugs in society. This is better explained by the understanding of sociological theories of deviance. Deviant behavior can be defined as a “behavior that fails to conform to the rules or norms of the group in question” (Tischler, 2011). When addressing the cause of drugs being in society we must look at the source, which will be described as the “drug-dealer”. When questioning if the “drug-dealer” is deviant, we must compare them to the norm of the society they are in. Using a rural town outside New York City as our society example, the norm of this society would be that the majority of it’s inhabitants to be employed, working blue-collar “9am to 5pm jobs”. The “drug-dealer” in this society is a deviant because this position goes against the norm of this society. How does one become deviant or what are the motives? With understanding Merton’s Strain Theory of sociology, this question may be answered. Strain Theory of Sociology is Robert K. Merton’s belief that American society causes the individual to become deviant because of the overemphasis on monetary success without the emphasis on the means of achieving said success (Tischler, 2011). Individuals are pushed to become deviant because they want to become successful and do so by any methods possible, even with illegal or illegitimate means. This can be evidence to why “drug-dealers” continue to become successful. Merton further divided deviants into four different types emerging from this strain (Tischler, 2011). “Drug-dealers” would fall into the type that Merton described as “innovators”. Tischler defines “innovators” as people who “accept the culturally validated goal of success but find deviant ways of going about reaching it.” These deviant “drug-dealers” make lucrative amounts of money in short periods of time with little effort exposing society to the negative consequences of drug addictions; drug-dealers are feeding America’s addiction to heroin. Regardless of cause of heroin use, heroin use has many negative implications on modern America. Substance abuse, in 2012, cost the American government over $600 billion annually in...
References: Bachman, J. (2001). Substance abuse: the nation 's number one health problem. Colorado Nurse, 101(2), 22-23.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (1997) Drug Impaired Driving. Retrieved from http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/outreach/safesobr/15qp/web/iddrug.html on November 5, 2014
National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA. (2012) Heroin Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin on November 5, 2014
Peavy, K. M., Banta-Green, C. J., Kingston, S., Hanrahan, M., Merrill, J. O., & Coffin, P. O. (2012). "Hooked on" prescription-type opiates prior to using heroin: results from a survey of syringe exchange clients. Journal Of Psychoactive Drugs, 44(3), 259-265.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document