Alcohol and drug abuse among the youth and the adult population is a growing social problem in the United States. The teenage population is very influential to when around its peers. With peer pressure and social roles, teens tend to try and be like the person they look up to, and will do just about anything to look and seem cool in an effort to fit in. Adults tend to turn to alcohol and drugs due to life experiences, such as getting laid off of a job,a death of a family member or friend, or simply depression.
There are many other reasons including psychological, physiological, and social consequences that lead to the use of alcohol and drugs among the U. S. population. Sociologist have different perspectives of what causes these individuals to engage in alcohol and drug abuse. The first sociological theory is the Structural-Functionalist Perspective. Their view on alcohol and drug abuse argues that it is a response to weakening societal norms.
What that means is that as change occurs and becomes more complex, norms and values become unclear and lines become blurred. For example, although public health officials and health care professionals warn of the dangers of alcohol and tobacco use, advertisers glorify the use of alcohol and tobacco, and the United States government subsidizes the alcohol and tobacco industries. Many people don’t realize all of the media and other influences which add to the weakening of their norms and values.
Television and music are some influences that add to the social changes. Therefore, Structural-Functionalist look at drug use as a response from the absence of a perceived bond between the individual and the society. The second theory is the Conflict Perspective, which emphasizes how the different powers influence the drug use, behaviors and societal values concerning drug use. According to the conflict theory alcohol and drug use occur from events like stress in the work place or family problems.
People resort to drug or alcohol abuse to avoid reality of the situation that caused the stress. Different groups view drugs in different ways. Some people, like the everyday individual, have no influence on whether a drug is considered good or bad. Each person has his or her own opinion but neither have any influence on wether or not cigarettes, marijuana, or alcohol are legal and/or illegal for use. On the other hand people “higher up” in ociety may have some influence on things such as prison sentences and other consequences of that abused substance because of his or her personal views on the issue.
Corporations might also have some influences on the social control of the drug(s) in question. The third theory on alcohol and drug use is the Symbolic-Interactionist Perspective. This theory focuses on the meanings associated with the drug use. For example, if someone is arrested for drug possession, he or she will more than likely be labeled as a drug head, pot head, and so on.
Once the individual is labeled such, it is usually harder for that person to break out of the label because he or she accepts the label and continues to use the drug and that use sometimes will escalates to a worse behavior. Also, if an individual has friends and/or family that glorify certain drugs, he or she is probably more likely to try that drug. Symbolic-Interactionist also emphasize the importance of using symbols such as DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) or the Boys and Girls Club of America, to educate the youth about the negative side effects and consequences of alcohol and drug abuse.
Alcohol and drug abuse will always be a social problem in America if society continues to let the structural world and cultures to influence everyday choices. Even from “It’s a boy/girl” cigars for a child being born or a congratulatory toast at a wedding, these actions will only influence individuals to make the wrong decision at some point. The sociologist have done the leg work for coming up with the reasons why people do certain things, but now its society’s turn to take action and do something about it.