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Drugs Notes 5

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University of Ottawa
Carolyn Gordon

1 Criminal Justice and Drugs Take Home Midterm #1 Regan Blaind 6437019 CRM 3314 A Professor Fletcher 3 October 2013 2 1) The use of drugs in society remains a common occurrence, as it has survived many transformations throughout history. These changes can be observed through the reasons of initial use, the substances abused, the administration techniques, and the groups that became dependent on them. One element that has remained consistent within these changes is the “level of ontological security and trust to be found on the street which obviates some of the uncertainties of being male on the margins of civil society” (Collison, 1996, p. 429). One of the main factors contributing to the origin of such individuals searching for meaning is from the emergence of the free market society. This destroyed mans relationships with his culture, and left many people with nothing, eventually leading to addiction. Through the works of Alexander, Bourgois, and Collison it will be clear for one to see that drug use is a means of fighting this dislocation through the absence of social structures, consumption, and risk, as the individual exercises control and self determination in anomic situations by using these drugs. To fully understand the concept of drug use as a means to exert control and exercise self determination, one must understand the origins of this occurrence, as it demonstrates the feelings of hopelessness and longing felt by those affected. The emergence of a free market society meant that exchange of labour, land, clan loyalties, village responsibilities, family obligations, and values had to be overpowered (Alexander, 2001, p. 9). This created extreme dislocation as relations between families, society, and values were destroyed, robbing people of their identity. One could only imagine how it would feel to lose all sense of belonging and hope on the land you once called home. These factors allow for an obvious connection between dislocation and addiction. 3 This connection can be appreciated through the Native Canadians and Orcadians in Canada. Before the free market, “where alcohol was readily available, it was used moderately, often ceremonially rather than addictively” (Alexander, 2001, p. 14). Once this event occurred, the natives were stripped of their culture and land through assimilation and alcoholism became a rampant problem within groups. This is similar to the orcadians in Canada, as they were preferred employees by Hudson’s Bay Company “because of their characteristic sobriety and obedience” (Alexander, 2001, p. 16). This changed dramatically as well once the volunteers felt the exile and dislocation from living life at sea with no connections to their homelands. From these examples, it is clear to see how easy it is for one to have these feelings of alienation, and how substance abuse can easily become the perfect means to establish a new society where one feels integrated with a community again. As initial drug use begins, it is quickly learned that “the most successful drug users rise through the hierarchies of drug society” (Alexander, 2001, p. 18). This allows one to fully integrate into a new way of being where they feel accepted and respected again, by replacing the absent social structures with the creation of marginalized communities. Collison explains this occurrence perfectly when he states, “rather than being ‘alien’, drugs (and all other crimes associated with them) form a crucial part of the irregular economy in poor communities” (Collison, 1996, p. 439). One example of a cause of absent social structures can be attributed to st the chronic crack use among African Americans and Puerto Ricans in the early 21 century that created extreme ‘inner city apartheid’. These oppressed groups are unsurprisingly those with the highest proportion of drug problems, thereby leading to a life of crime to support such needs (Bourgois, 2003, p. 32). This type of crime provides individuals with the chance to act out in 4 masculine ways and allows them to have certain controls over their lives. This is crucial in the understanding of drug use as a means to exercise self-determination in anomic situations because they can step outside of daily life routines and choose what groups they want to be apart of within these marginalized communities. Once in these groups, they still often experienced the pains of consumption that society has created, but the means of drug use become resources for the acquisition of goods. Consumption is a significant part of society, as it how one relates to one another and how you can flaunt your identity. There is a constant pressure to keep buying more and more in “the search for social approval through lifestyle and symbolic membership” (Collison, 1996, p. 430). Drug use becomes a means to exert control and self-determination in these circumstances because wearing the newest fashionable item and drinking expensive alcohol was seen as something that was cool, and having such items could be obtained through motivations such as crime and drugs. These individuals were creating new routines for themselves through their new identities, and exerting their “desire to be financially independent from their parent(s) and control something of their lives” (Collison, 1996, p. 438). Similarly, the concept of risk in society is especially common among youth because “risk taking is about achieving and displaying independence, identity, and maturity” (Collison, 1996, p. 434). These adolescents have a belief that certain risks do not apply to them, as they are above it, and some believe that it is just something that is an inevitable part of the future and they should not be concerned with what could happen to them now. Drugs are a means to exert control and exercise self-determination in scenarios of risk because “drugs provide a level of security from risk to an always vulnerable male self” (Collison, 1996, p. 435). This means that 5 drugs can open new doors and give them the sense that they are in control and allow for the experience of excitement in every day life. These forms of excitement can be experienced through risk taking and the concept known as edgework. Edgework represents a impulsive search for the self that is created through the process of seizing the thrill of today, by testing the boundaries of ones skills, but having a certain amount of control, or what is known as remaining on the edge (Collison, 1996; Sefiha, 2012). In some cases, this can be a big step, but “a powerful and predatory masculinity could take time out from anxiety by stepping outside daily life and its routines with the help of drugs” (Collison, 1996, p.435). This clearly demonstrates that drug use is a means of control in the lives of those within marginalized communities because it allows them to step outside of their comfort zones and seek a thrill they never thought possible, but still having a grip on reality. This helps shape their identity within these cultures and gives them confidence to take greater risks. Through the works of Alexander, Bourgois, and Collison, it is evident that the use of drugs remains a prominent part of every day lives as a means to exert control in anomic situations developing their self-determination. These communities were created due to the extreme stress of dislocation, as one lost their roles and identities within the communities they grew up in. Drugs became a reasonable means to replace absent social structures because it gave the men a sense of belonging in a community again. Also, drugs and crime associated with them were an excellent way of keeping up with the fast paced consuming nature of society. Having accesses to the newest fashions and commodities were only possible through drugs. Lastly, drugs allowed the individuals to be free from daily routines and take risks in their lives. If society does not start to create more jobs, improve their inclusiveness for people who may feel oppressed and 6 allow individuals to have opportunities
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