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SOC 1500 Oct 18 2011 Lecture Note (F11)

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University of Guelph
SOC 1500
Alexander Shvarts

SOC 1500 Tuesday, October 18, 2011 Lecture 5: Drug Crime The Harm from Drug Use • Drinking: More harm to one’s health than the use of illegal drugs > We don’t base drug policy on how much harm they do to our body; alcohol does much more harm to oneself then illegal drugs • Drugs: Major harms arise from the fact that these drugs are illegal > Harm from drugs come from the fact that they are illegal – problem with drugs is drug crime (dealers) Statistics: In the developed world, approx. 1/4 (25%) of males die related to tobacco; approx. 8% die from alcohol related; drugs – less than 2% deaths are attributed to illegal drugs; smoking increasing amongst females Predictable Responses to Drug Use • Media - “drug crisis”: Ex. crystal meth > When you watch media, they always create drug epidemics; make it seem like drug use is out of control – author points out that all media portrayals are false; media scares have nothing to do with statistics (most of the time) • Users have multiple problems - clinics need to able to offer different types of help: Drug use not the cause of problems - more likely a symptom > Solution to drug problems = rehab – is it really a solution? No, because they will break habit for a few weeks, then continue; need someone to talk to them about their psychological problems that are leading them to use these drugs • Response to a new crisis drug - make drug illegal: Ex. alcohol prohibited – led to organized crime - repressing supply side of drug distribution – ineffective > Any problems – we make them illegal immediately; by making illegal, people will find other ways around it (organized crime) – ex. prohibition • Stockwell (2005) - impact on health: Tobacco and alcohol worse than those of illegal drugs Responding to Illicit Drug Use • Harm done by illicit drugs: Less than harm caused by legal drugs > How many people have died from marijuana use? Virtually has killed no one in history – no damage • Harm reduction approach: Ex. Safe injection sites in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. Similar studies in Switzerland and the Netherlands indicate that prescribed heroin at injection sites has reduced crime - if addicts can manage their drug problem, may be able to deal with the factors which led them to drug use in the first place > Drug users/addicts can safely buy how much they are getting; councilors present to talk to them about their problems; regulate/reduce their use • Politicians “crackdowns” or prohibition on drug use – main strategy: Approach hasn’t worked and has done more damage (i.e. by generating and rewarding organized crime) than the use of drugs themselves > President Nixon introduced in 1970’s 1 The Pharmacology of Drugs • Societal demands to punish, stigmatize, and exclude users of certain substances is not based on pharmacological evidence > Little scientific evidence that shows that smoking marijuana is a major detriment to your health Addiction: Pharmacological, Psychological, and Social Aspects • The “Once an Addict, Always an Addict” Myth: People can, and do, leave drug dependence behind > When you become an addict, you’re an addict for life; addictive gene does not really exist; millions of cases where people were addicts, went through treatment/counseling and able to give up drug problem • We have experienced a decade and a half of policies designed to stigmatize addicts The Discrepancy between Drug Use, Convictions, Media Coverage, and Policies • Perception of a drug “epidemic” – overstated: Cocaine use is rare compared with alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis, but cocaine is prevalent among certain high-risk groups > Media creates moral panics and makes it seem like it is out of control • Repressive drug-enforcement policy does not alleviate the conditions that encourage young people to turn to drugs: Does not provide them with meaningful job opportunities > A lot of people who turn to drugs do so because of issues (ex. live in poverty, cannot find job, abused – try to find release; turn to drugs) • Media and politicians tell people that drug use is becoming an epidemic: Cocaine convictions have increased in Canada despite declining use. Enforcement agencies influenced by authority - “Drug crimes” created by those in authority • Netherlands: Decided to decriminalize some forms of drug use - reduction in other types of crime > After pot was decriminalized, pot use declines – normal that its not something people want to do anything Social Constructionist and Labeling Theory: Moral Entrepreneurs (Hackler – pp.135-6) • Most powerful use law to stigmatize the less powerful > The law is not neutral; does not treat everyone equally; law made by powerful groups in society; stigmatize less powerful groups; construct these laws because it’s a good way to put lower class in jail • “Moral entrepreneurs” and control agents: Determine which behaviors are criminalized (Becker, 1963). Legislators, lobbyists and interest groups create laws. Moral entrepreneurs define conditions as offensive and harmful - enforce rules - provide the enforcers (police) with jobs and justifications
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