SOC102 Social Problems Ch 8 Notes: Addiction
Addiction: Socially disapproved behaviour that is uncontrollable, repetitious, and
Social effects of addiction—whether by drugs, alcohol, or gambling—are huge, in broken
families, health consequences for addicts, lost days at work, and the cost of treating and
‘fixing’ the addicts. In addition, there are crime and safety issues at stake.
We need to understand what it is about our society, and our social policies, thatpromote
harmful, addictive behaviour, and how we can change society to reduce these risks.
Gambling is a behaviour on a continuum, ranging from non-gamblers to recreational
gamblers to problem gamblers
there are roughly 480,000 Canadians with a gambling problem.
The CPGI (Canadian Problem Gambling Index) is a scale developed to measure problem
or addictive gambling. To give some idea about the nature of the problem created by
problem gambling, consider the items that make up this index.
At present, the problem gambling measure (cpgi) focuses more on financial & social outcomes.
We can detect physiological effects in drug or alcohol addiction that we can’t detect in
Like alcohol and drugs, gambling historically has been a major source of revenue for the
Governments decided to legalize gambling and take a share of the profits, then
promoted gambling for even greater economic returns.
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.
Features in society and the gambling environment contribute to gambling problems.
Classic Work: In Outsiders, (1963) Howard Becker set the groundwork for
Labelling theory, as it is known today. Becker notes, ‘Social groups create deviance by
making rules whose infraction constitutes deviance, and by applying these rules to
particular people and labeling them as outsiders’
Becker wants us to focus attention, instead on the social context that labels people deviant.
We must pay as much attention to the rule enforcer as we do to the rule violator. The psychological model of behaviour change places the burden of ‘responsible gambling’
squarely on the shoulders of the individual gambler, citing personality weaknesses or cognitive
distortion as the cause of gambling problems.
Are Drugs and Alcohol Social Problems?
Drug: Any substance that causes a biochemical reaction in the body.
What people define as a legal drug or an illegal drug usually depends less on its chemical
properties and more on economic, social, and political factors
Our attitudes towards specific drugs vary over time and from one society to another. When
social and cultural sensibilities shift, people start rejecting what they once accepted.
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
The objective aspect relies on physical, mental, or social evidence that the use of a drug harms
the individual and society.
Drug Dependency: The routine need for a drug for physiological and/or psychological reasons.
Tolerance: A symptom of repeated and frequent drug use. It refers to the decreased
effectiveness of any given drug.
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.
Where alcohol abusers were once thought sinners or moral weaklings and subjected to scorn or
criticism, with medicalization they became sick people in need of treatment
Medicalization temporarily excuses the ‘affliction’—a perceived benefit to the drug abuser—and
raises the power of doctors in society.
The common element was an obsession with cleanliness (also purity, virtue, and hygiene) versus
dirt (also sin, wickedness, and filth).
Those who use alcohol in moderation are considered ‘clean’ but those who use illicit street
drugs are considered ‘dirty’ and part of a drug subculture.
Social and Physical Characteristics of Addictions
Aside from sex and education, age is the most important determinant of alcohol use. According
to data from the recent Canadian Addiction Survey, ‘past year use’ peaks between the ages of
18 and 24, with about 90 per cent of those in this age range consuming alcohol within the past
Like most other drugs, alcohol is relatively harmless when used moderately and responsibly
Women are likely to use other chemical substances to cope with stress. (happy pill 1950s). Social factors shape alcohol use and abuse in at least two ways: by influencing the odds that a
person will learn to use alcohol to cope with stress, and by influencing the opportunities a
person has to use alcohol for any reason.
Unlike alcohol use, there is a simple linear relationship between education and cigarette
smoking: ‘People with less than a high school education are almost three times more likely than
university graduates to be current smokers’
The psychoactive substance in tobacco—is highly addictive; a drug to blame for many health
problems, and a costly habit, both for the individual and for society.
Among adolescents who experiment with smoking, the development of a smoking habit is
positively correlated with poor academic performance, parental smoking, and having more than
half of one’s friends smoking.
Illicit Drug Abuse
In general, factors that reduce the likelihood of drug use and abuse include strong family bonds,
which reduce the use of all illegal drugs except marijuana.
Married people and parents who adhere to conventional values may use illegal drugs when they
come under stress, for the control of stress so they can continue to conform to dominant values
Drug use is a learned behaviour that depends on social opportunities and on inclusion in social
occasions where drugs are being used.
Normative boundaries restricting girls’ access to and use of drugs are largely due to traditional
gender roles that limit girls’ access to certain types of leisure and sociability.
Substance Abuse among the Aboriginal Population
Because of poor living conditions, illicit substances provide an escape for Aboriginal people
Drug use is a significant problem among the Aboriginal population, studies show that ‘the use of
marijuana is disproportionately higher among Native than non-Native American adolescents.’
The method of treatment that has worked best is addiction counselling by other Native people,
sharing Aboriginal experiences, relearning the traditional culture, and practising Aboriginal
Structural functionalists hold that alcohol and drug a