Drug and Alcohol Consumption as Functions of Social Structures: A Cross-cultural Sociology

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Edwin Mellen Press, 2005 - Psychology - 400 pages
This work uses classical sociological theory to demonstrate how the processes of rationalization and modernization have altered why, how, and how frequently people consume drugs. It is with great pleasure that I introduce this important book on drug use. While books on the subject abound, it is always refreshing to find a scholarly text on drug use that offers a new vantage point on this complicated and ever present social phenomenon. This is such a book. James Hawdon has skillfully synthesized classic sociological thought to craft a general theory of drugs that provides us with significant insights into human drug use. He has also painstakingly gathered the existing data on drug use throughout the world to put his new theory to the test. The result is a broad macro-sociological theory of drug use, firmly grounded in a wealth of empirical evidence, which has much to offer both academics and policy makers alike. drug and what is not, the book provides a working definition of drugs that includes both the psychoactive aspects of substances and the political reality that goes into defining what substances society recognizes as drugs. Drugs have become extremely politicized. Whether it is moral entrepreneurs concerned with saving souls, political entrepreneurs concerned with constituencies and elections, or some other interested parties, drugs have come to be defined as magical substances that are somehow different from other things. Hawdon demonstrates that this special status that drugs have acquired is largely unfounded. While drugs can be very powerful substances, treating drugs as totally different from all other commodities has led many to approach issues related to drug use in a manner that is often misguided or even counterproductive. It is important to remember that drugs, both legal and illegal, are basically just commodities. The same economic forces of supply and demand that influence the consumption patterns of other commodities impact the consumption of drugs. rationalization, also shape these consumption patterns. And demonizing these substances tends to obscure the social reality of drugs and drug use. The nature of drug use is largely predicated on the context in which the drug use takes place. Hawdon points out that whether or not a drug has been socially defined as sacred by a social group plays an essential role in how a drug is used and the extent to which it is abused by members of that group. There is nothing inherently sacred about any given drug. A drug becomes sacred only when the collectivity defines it as such and maintains beliefs and rites that support the drug's sacred status. Moreover, social forces such as modernization and scientific rationality have increasingly impacted religious practices and, in turn, changed the nature of sacred drug use. This influence is especially evident in the patterns of drug use in more modernized western societies. Hawdon notes that the differences in social control over sacred versus profane drug using behaviors are important. certain drug using behaviors as well. In contrast, restrictions on drugs defined as profane are basically negative in nature, either restricting or prohibiting drug use, but not requiring drug use. The difference has significant ramifications. Sacred drug use requires the use of the sacred drugs by certain people at specific times and in a specific manner. At the same time, generally, the proscriptions of sacred drug use tend to make abuse of these drugs much less likely and the rituals related to sacred use also serve an integrative function for the people within this belief system. Conversely, the use of profane drugs is not so influenced, thus drugs defined as profane are prone to greater variations in who, when, and how they are used. Profane drugs are also more likely to be abused and to be socially disintegrative with regard to the larger society, fostering the development of distinct subgroups. And while groups within a society may disagree on what is sacred drug use and what is not, these insights can have important policy implications. the nature of sacred and profane drug use. Pre-modern societies saw a world filled with the supernatural in which sacred drug use could literally transform people, facilitate spiritual journeys to other worlds, and manipulate the gods. In modern societies, however, the growing influence of modernization, science and rational thought has led to a demystification of the world, which has reduced the emphasis on religion and dealing directly with the supernatural. As the predominant worldview has grown more secular, drug use has become more profane and less subject to the sacred proscriptions of earlier times. Sacred drug use has become more abstract, symbolic, and otherworldly in focus with less direct control on drug use. Meanwhile, an increased emphasis on rational thought and science has produced a stronger emphasis on individual instrumental action, resulting in an increase in recreational drug use. Secular society is a society based largely on laws but, unlike the absolute nature of religious beliefs, laws are more relative and change much more rapidly. control of drug use is more derivative than direct. Thus, modern western societies that glorify individualism and the freedom to make personal choices by their very nature reduce the influence of communal restraints and increase the likelihood of greater variation in who uses drugs, what drugs they use, and how they use them. Subcultures may develop in reaction to the disenchantment of the world and use their own sacred drugs to reintroduce the mystical, but the rationalization process eventually changes even these groups. Hawdon's work, supported by numerous examples and global data, show that rates of drug use are higher in nations or in regions that are more developed. The rise of synthetic drugs and the continuous growth and spread of pharmaceutical knowledge makes many new drugs readily available. Modern factories produce drugs faster. Drugs become cheaper and easier to obtain. Thus, the process of modernization increases the variety of drugs available and the variety of drugs used for all segments of society. Modernization also affects the structure of social control mechanisms related to drug use. pattern of drug use in modernizing societies throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. As industrialization rapidly modernizes various aspects of a given society, drug use expands rapidly, and then slowly stabilizes. This is followed by a dramatic decrease in drug use. This curvilinear pattern is related to changes in social control mechanisms. Traditional sources of informal social control are weakened by the processes of modernization and eventually replaced by formal social control in the form of anti-drug laws. The changing nature of work and the growing interdependence of social institutions, both nationally and internationally, contribute to a new emphasis on sobriety. This has been coupled with a shifting emphasis on the importance of achieved over ascribed status in modern societies. The result is an increasing correlation of drug use patterns with achieved social status in contrast to less modernized societies where ascribed status plays a much greater role in determining drug use patterns. drug use as societies become more modern and more egalitarian. Hawdon provides ample evidence to demonstrate how cyclical patterns of drug use found within societies are closely related to the status of those who are using the drugs and the perceived dangers of the drugs being used. Typically, new drugs come along or old drugs are rediscovered by societal elites. Over time, the use of these drugs spreads to other segments of society and eventually to people in the lower segments of society. Then the use of these drugs falls out of favor in elite circles, perhaps due to the arrival of another new drug or the increased social costs of being associated with a drug that is now identified with low social status. It is at this point in the cycle that anti-drug laws tend to appear which target these drugs that are now primarily used by people with lower social status. Not coincidentally, these lower status users have fewer resources to influence the law making process or to conceal their drug use.

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Contents

Chapter
3
Chapter 2
21
The Empirical Patterns of Illegal Drug Use
49
Copyright

9 other sections not shown

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About the author (2005)

James Hawdon recently joined the faculty at Virginia Polytechnic and State University as an Associate Professor of Sociology.

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