Factors that create social construction on drugs and substances.

The use of drugs in different forms for various purposes has existed for centuries. Communities have associated drugs use to relate with social interactions. According to National Institute of  Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug abuse happen when people use illegal drugs or legal drugs inappropriately. Of late, as Dingelstad et al (1996) reports, drugs are not only widely used but also widely debated. Social construction on substances is an important subject by itself as this provides a link between what the society perceive, decide and practice.  NIDA’s National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) cautions on emerging trends and patterns bursting rapidly on the scene in many metropolitan areas and across the United States – global scenario applies in this alert. While the said evaluation is disturbing, let us take a look at some underlying factors that create social construction on drugs and substances that may well be catalysts for the emerging trends.

A Kernel of Truth

Consciousness-altering chemicals for consumption have been going on for decades enough to provide some basis for people to claim it is a problem. Basically, all subsequent civilizations have ingested these chemical in form of fermented beverages or in other pharmacological formulas.

Media Intensification

Influence of media in almost all drugs cannot be sidelined. Since media was invented, sensationalized drug use to an extent of categorizing society group users has impacted people’s perception. According to Casa Palmera, media tends to teach us to assume that all addicts fit these stereotypes when most do not. Reinerman (1994) affirms that media dramatizes drug alerts like it does all news.

In an article published by Social Science and Medicine Dingelstad et la (1996) reports that drugs have been used by athletes since the days of the ancient Greeks when mushrooms and other substances were taken to improve performances. In a statement made by Mottram (1988) articulates that the use of performance-enhancing drugs “is potentially the most serious threat to the credibility of competitive sport and has become the subject of doping control regulations. It concerns the deliberate, illegitimate use of drugs in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage over fellow competitors. Further Mottram state that drugs that bring an athlete up to “normal” are not seen as unfair; those that allow performances that are “supernormal” are condemned.

Political – Moral Entrepreneurs

Now, Becker (1963) crafted phrase “moral entrepreneur” which means those who create (enforce) a rule against what they see as a social immoral.  While, Reinmaran supplemented “politico” because so many of these people who enforce the rule are powerful or elite political figures. As Reinerman states (1994), this group of people in most cases have the last word and call public attention to drugs and contest something must be done and they have vested interests. In true sense, they are the primary source of media sound bites. Ironically, in America, being hard on drugs is not a great deal on political votes. In a U.S. Elections and the War on Drugs Younger (2012) reports that, the 2008 electoral campaigns drug policy was never even mentioned.

Professional Interests

 In each drug type, various professional groups have come forth to contest on drug laws. Gusfield define this action as “ownership” of drug problems. Peel (1989) asserts that, these groups include churches, industrialists, scientists, The American Medical Association, The American Medical Association, law enforcement agencies, treatment industries, and some former groups of addicts converted to diseases ideology. Reinerman (1998) concludes that, these groups claim for their own interest, by virtue of their specialized knowledge, the legitimacy and authority to name what is wrong and prescribe the solution, usually garnering resources at the end.

Historical Context of Conflict

The context in social construction on drugs and substances have has always involved Media, Moral Entrepreneurs and professional Interests. This interaction has resulted to conflicts where Kernel of Truth about drug use has been inflated. According to Reinerman (1989), Temperance crusader for many years persuaded millions to pledge abstinence without success of achieving alcohol control laws. However, Reinerman proceeds to say, when prohibition were enforced some events had a bearing on this effects including, revolutions in Russia and Mexico, world war I, massive immigration and impoverishment, and socialist, anarchist, labor movement and increased crime problems. He admits that, economic, political, cultural, class, racial provided a background in which claim makers construed that certain classes of drug users posed as threats.

Linking Drug Use to a “Dangerous Class

The argument that drugs alone are not the problem until they are used by certain users has been there for a long time. Duster, 1970; Himmelstein, 1978) analyse link drug to users already perceived as “dangerous”, “disreputable” or “threatening”. Gusfield (1963) and Rumbarger (1989), give an examples of alcohol is mostly used by urban, immigrant, Catholic, working-class while cocaine is smoked by African-American and Latino underclass. In fact, the introduction of Cocaine in North America made headlines and prompted calls for drug war. Too, the two experts, reports that the Chinese Opium smoking dens, not widespread led to California’s first drug law in the 1870s. Palmera (2014) analyses other perceptions that addicts are commonly assumed to be uneducated, often early school drop outs, homeless, and either ignorant or uncaring of the consequences of their choices and likely to engage in criminal behavior beyond the use of illegal drugs. Palmera, affirms that, the stereotypes say they are disinterested in change and would prefer to let the rest of society pick up the tab for their choices and pick up the pieces when their lives fall apart.

Scapegoating a Drug for a Wide Array of Public Problems

 Blaming drugs or its illegal effects has well gone along with conflicting historical contexts. This is morally functional scapegoats. According to Reinerman (1989) Attributing a drug or its alleged effects on a group of users for a variety of pre-existing social ills which is usually only indirectly related,  lay resonance to claims of “horrors of drug”. The scenario that Temperrance Crusader potrayed will want people to believe that for instance without alcohol use, America would be a land free from infidelity, divorce, crime, poverty, mental illnesses and, exploitation. Consequently, the same crusader influence us to think that without Marijuana and LSD conflict between youth and their parents, inner class or under class and Vietnam war could be non-existed. According to Palmera (2014), in the U.S. there is a stereotype of disadvantaged people living in inner cities, in poverty, being more prone to drug abuse, especially minorities in those areas. Palmera’s report that many people assume that drug abuse always comes with tell-tale physical signs, such as weight loss, scabs or scars from injections, unhealthy skin color, dark circles under the eyes and so on.

Literally, the issue of substance use in the contemporary society remain contentious. There is need to shift evaluate on how best to shift community minds on this subject. A change can happen when targeting youth and younger age group, from pre-school level can begin understanding what substance use and abuse is and the leading impact. This change has to begin at that stage when we think children are naive through literacy and day-to-day lives programs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Nelly Niyonzima

For Africa, International Relations, Geopolitical Trends and Strategic Issues.
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