Chapter 8 of Social Problems

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University of Toronto St. George
Lorne Tepperman

Chapter 8 Addictions Introduction We are used to hearing, and even using, the word addiction to refer to behaviour that is uncontrollable, repeated or frequent, socially disapproved, and possibly harmful More recently, we have started to hear about other addictions that describe socially disapproved behaviours: sex, shopping, Internet, or eating addictions Perhaps they are not addictions but habits, hobbies, minor sins, or personal weaknesses By calling them addictions, we give them a medical label and imply that they are as important as other behaviours labelled addictive, and perhaps also that they should be dealt with medically We wonder if they should be called addictions or obsessions which terms imply a different set of symptoms and treatments Addiction Addiction: socially disapproved behaviour that is uncontrollable, repetitious, and possibly harmful, o Based on criteria used by the American Psychiatric Association and the WHO o Deciding whether a person has an alcohol or drug addiction, requires asking and answering questions in only 7 categories o A person answering yes to questions in 3 or more of the categories meets the medical definition of addiction o Researchers use a very similar instrument to detect gambling addiction, or problem gambling The issue is whether you have trouble controlling your use, and whether there are negative effects, whenever you do use the substance Why is addiction a social problem? o Social effect of addiction are huge in broken families, health consequences for addicts and their loved ones, lost days at work, and the cost of treating and fixing the addicts o There are crime and safety issues at stake What turns this personal trouble into a public issue? o Recognition of the social causes of addiction (sociological view) o Focuses attention on the addicted individual and his/her personal pathology (medical view) The sociological and public health approaches focus on the social forces that increase the risks that certain people, or groups, will develop addictions o We need to understand what is it about our society, and our social policies, that promote harmful, addictive behaviour, and how we can change society to reduce these risks Labelling: the process of defining and treating others as deviant. Labelling theory explores the effects of negative labels on individuals self-conceptions and is interested in the development of a deviant identity. Social reactions of condemnation and criminalization can lead actors to alter their individual characteristics and to adopt the values of their labelled identity Gambling is a behaviour on a continuum, ranging from non-gamblers to recreational gamblers to problem gamblers o The CPGI is a scale developed to measure problem or addictive gambling o Focuses more on financial and social outcomes o The chief differences between problem gambling and the more general measure of addiction are that we can detect physiological effects in drug or alcohol addiction that we cant detect in gambling addiction Gambling has become a major global industry in the last 20 years, and it continues to grow rapidly o Advertised everywhere as a source of fun and recreation o National, provincial and state, and local governments help to promote gambling to raise their own revenues o Gambling historically has been a major source of revenue for organized crime o In the second half of the 20 century, many government decided to legalize gambling and take a share of the profits o Some of this money is reinvested in public goods Gambling has become a public health issue: it has social causes and health outcomes o It is a behaviour learned socially in the usual ways through observation, experimentation, reward, and emulation, or through the modelling and example of social role models Features in society and the gambling environment contribute to gambling problems. They include: o Game features that get us to bet more than we planned to, by using speed, noise, flashing lights and slanted information o Advertising, making gambling seem cool, fun and desirable o Widespread and growing availability of gambling (online 24/7) o Casino promotions and incentives (free busses to the casino, free meals and drinks, free hotel room) Most social science work on gambling takes a psychological approach o It focuses on the thinking and behaviour of individuals without considering their social environment o Eg. it views addictive gambling as the result of cognitive distortion (bad thinking) about the odds of winning and the value of chasing losses o The goal of psychological counselling is to get gamblers to think differently about what they are doing and act differently, whatever their personal inclinations A large body of research has identified links between gambling and mood disorders o Includes depression, anxiety, and bipolar disease o This suggests there are genetic bases to problem gambling o Found it is linked to people who are impulsive or display anti-social behaviour, who drink too much, who are lonely or socially isolated, or who display excessive or inappropriate anger Are Drugs and Alcohol Social Problems Drug: any substance that causes a biochemical reaction in the body It is against the law to induce some biochemical reactions inside your body What people define as a legal drug or an illegal drug usually depends less on its chemical properties and more on surrounding economic, social and political factors In Canada, the use of legal drugs is much more common than the use of illegal drugs o Many members of society treat the use of illegal drugs as a major problem while ignoring the harm done by legal drugs Our attitudes towards specific drugs vary over time and from one society to another o When social and cultural sensibilities shift, people start rejecting what they once accepted Opium and cocaine were thought dangerous and subjected to strict control, if not an outright ban o Reason is sociological: the publics opinion of their effects and those who used them change A commonly used drug was restricted or criminalized when prevailing attitudes changed o The changed were because of new attitudes towards immigrants or racial minorities who were somehow associated with the drug Drug abuse: this concept begins with the notion of excessive or inappropriate drug use resulting in social, psychological and/or physiological impairments. It stems from a chronic physical and psychological compulsion to continue taking a drug in order to avoid unpleasant withdrawal syndrome o Adolescent alcohol use in Ontario and throughout the US: both cig and mer a jew wana use peaked in the late 70s, decreased throughout the 80s, and then began to increase dramatically in the early 90s o The similar trends in Ontario and US suggest similar shifts in basic attitudes over time The ideas of alcohol abuse and drug abuse begin with a notion of extreme or unsuitable use that results in social, psychological and physiological harm o There are 2 aspects to this idea of abuse: objective and subjective o Objective aspect relies on physical, mental, or social evidence that the use of a drug harms the individual and society o Eg. drug dependency: the routine need for a drug for physiological and/or psychological reasons o Tolerance: a symptom of repeated and frequent drug use. It refers to the decreased effectiveness of any given drug o People dependent on drugs and alcohol experience increase in tolerance to the substance over time, meaning they need larger and larger doses of it to get the same effects Medicalization and the Transformation of a Problem Medicalization: the process through which behaviours are reconceived as instances of illness and are deemed no longer sinful since they are outside personal control o They became sick people in need of treatment o Puts control in the hands of doctors r
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