There are many myths that have circulated about drug usage. The one that I think I have internalized and heard the most is the saying, “once a junkie, always a junkie”. People believe that users who have become addicted are never able to stop using the drug, but this isn’t always true. Usually there is a reason the user has began using drugs, and if that reason is removed, than the user will stop using. Also, people often feel that because the laws against drug use and sales is tougher in the United States than in other countries that the rate of use would be lower, but in actuality, the highest rate of drug use in the world is in the United States!
One of the biggest myth is that drug users commit crimes as a result of their drug use. Although this can be a factor, most drug users who have a criminal background already had criminal charges before ever using drugs. Marijuana is often called “the gateway drug”, which means after using marijuana, the user will progress to harder drugs. Although this is true, it isn’t because of the marijuana itself, but rather, the people the user is associating with. Most often the user has friends who are using harder drugs such as cocaine or heroin.
The use of legal drugs is often more dangerous than the use of illegal drugs and more common. Approximately 125 million people in America drink alcohol and nearly 62 million people smoke cigarettes. There are only approximately 20 million people who use illegal drugs. Each year, the use of two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, kill people than approximately 60 times the amount of all the illegal drugs combined.
The types of drugs are classified into three main categories depending on how they effect the central nervous system, meaning the brain and spinal cord. Stimulants stimulate activity of the CNS and produce alertness and suppresses fatigue. These drugs are also known as “uppers.” Examples of this include: cocaine, crack, caffeine, and nicotine. Depressants reduce the activity of the CNS and cause muscle relaxation, relieves anxiety, alleviates pain, causes euphoria, and/or induces sleep. They are also known as “downers.” Examples of these are alcohol, heroin, PCP, morphine, and aspirin. Hallucinogens disturb the CNS and alters the user’s perception of reality. These drugs include lsd and ecstasy. They are also referred to as psychedelics.
Marijuana is derived from the Indian hemp plant Cannabis Sativa and was first used in ancient times. It was considered sacred, useful, and holy, and as a soother of grief. Many believe marijuana is the gateway to harder drugs but most have friends who are using harder drugs and this is an influence larger than the marijuana itself. However, research shows that almost all heroin and cocaine users started with marijuana. Medical uses for marijuana are for controlling nausea and relieving pain in ill patients that have AIDS, cancer, or other diseases. 11 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Marijuana is also called “grass”, “weed”, “pot”, and “dope.”
Heroin was first produced in 1898 from morphine. It may be considered one of the “safest” drugs because prolonged use does not necessarily damage organs, tissues, or cells of the body. The most common street-name for Heroin is “p-dope.” The price of heroin is extremely high as a result of the narcotics laws. Buying heroin on the black market is so expensive that users desperately search for money by committing crimes such as burglary, shoplifting, gambling, prostitution, and others.
Cocaine is derived from the leaves of coca plants. Before it was declared illegal in the middle twentieth century, it was often used as a local anesthetic, to relieve symptoms of fatigue and depression, and to cure morphine addiction and stomach disorder. The founder of pscyhoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, was a user of cocaine to stay alert and also prescribed it to his patients. It also served as a major ingredient in many medicines and soft drinks, such as coca-cola. When laws were passed to make it illegal, it began to be used for pleasure. Before it was illegal, it was used by people who were considered powerless: African Americans, lower-class whites, and criminals. In the 1960’s the people mostly using it was affluent whites because it is so expensive. It referred to as “the champagne of drugs” and “caviar among drugs.” Other street-names include: “coke”, “snow”, and “toot.”
Crack has higher risks than cocaine because of how it quickly and dramatically increases blood pressure and heart rate and can easily lead to heart attacks and death.
Also called “speed”, “crank”, and “crystal”, and has risen in usage rates dramatically. During World War II, soldiers used meth to reduce fatigue and enhance their performance. It wasn’t used as much historically because of its expense and it was hard to obtain, but that has changed. Has replaced cocaine as the drug of choice among many, mostly because the high lasts four or five times longer.
Other names for rohypnol include: “roofies”, “rope”, “the forget pill”, and “roach”. It is sold over the counter in about 60 countries and smuggled into the United States.
Nicknamed the “hug drug” because it causes people to want to be compassionate, forgiving, and closer to others. Studies have been done that caused rats and monkeys brain damage.
The connection between drugs and AIDS is very strong in the U.S. IV drug users that have AIDS make up less than 10% of all cases in Holland, Sweden, and Canada combined. It is 30% in the United States in comparison.
There is a definite link between drug use and crime. People who use illegal drugs usually commit more crimes than nonusers.
Socioeconomic status is related to the type of drug that is being used. People of higher socioeconomic status tend to use different types of drugs than people of lower socioeconomic status.
Users of heroin have the highest chance of becoming addicted because of its addictive chemical properties and most of its users are poor and use the drug as a coping mechanism to deal with life stress. Users of other drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine are less likely to become addicted because they more likely to use for leisure and not for coping.
The text discusses four characteristics that distinguish illegal drug users from non drug users. The first characteristic is gender. Males tend to use more then females. The text relates this to men being more likely to engage in deviant acts more than women do. They are also more likely to use more frequently and therefore become more addicted. (Thio, 2010 p. 285) Secondly, those who use illegal drugs are more likely to be pretty young. The text states, “The higher rate of drug use among younger people can be attributed to freedom from parental control and, more important, freedom from adult responsibilities such as employment, marriage, and child rearing” (Thio 2010, p. 285). Drug users usually learn to do drugs from someone close to them. Usually their parents or peers. If they learn from their parents they usually learn to do the legal drugs prior to turning to the illegal ones. If the user is in high school, they eventually start skipping class or not going all together. They tend to drop out of class and they avoid going to church.
According to The Journal of Marriage and Family, “Alcohol use was even higher, with 25% of eighth graders, 39% of 10th graders, and 51% of 12th graders reporting that they drank in the previous month” (Bogenschneider, 1998). This survey found that the biggest drug to be concerned with in young adults is alcohol. With the support that the text provides that alcohol can cause those peers to partake in other drugs later in life if they are hanging around the wrong crowds or with people who drink and use other drugs. This also could be the start of them skipping school and/or dropping out.
There are several causes of drug use but they are broken down into these three main categories: Biological, psychological, and sociological. “According to biological theories, the causes of drug addiction inhere in biological factors, such as inborn high tolerance for drugs or a metabolic disorder that creates a craving for an illicit drug in about the same way that diabetes creates a craving for insulin” (Thio, 2010, P. 285). This theory is the least credible. There isn’t a lot of scientific support. The following two theories have a large amount of support. Psychological theories blame personality traits and self-esteem for causes of drug use. Sociological theories blame social forces like peer influences. (Thio, 2010, P. 285).
Economic Deprivation Theory believes that there is a link between drug abuse and deprivation. It states, “…endemic drug abuse is intimately related to condition of mass social deprivation, economic marginality, and cultural and community breakdown” (Thio, 2010, P. 286). Drugs can become what define one social status. Drug dealers find respect and a sense of community that they wouldn’t otherwise have and this makes the drug use appealing. They also work to help one cope with different situations. It also helps relieve stress and helps those deal with not having a lot of personal belongings or money. It’s also believed that those who are living in poor communities just have more access to the drugs so it’s easier to become a user. (Thio, 2010, P. 287) Cognitive Association Theory explains drug addiction. He explained it using the example of the use of morphine in patients. Those who knew that they could become addicted and that they had withdrawn symptoms were more likely to use and become addicted to the drug. Given this information it is thought under this theory that those who are cognitively aware of the effects of the drug are more likely to become drug addicts. (Thio, 2010, P. 287)
This theory is based off of sociological and psychological factors. “Many people become accustomed to using legal drugs, which makes it easy to try illegal ones” (Thio, 2010, P. 287). This is because advertising pushes alcohol and cigarettes on us everyday in the media, and doctors give out free samples to patients from different companies in order to boost their drug sales. People become reliant on these legal drugs for release from pain, stress, etc. Another theory is that those whose parents drink make it easier for them to smoke marijuana because it’s hard for a parent to argue with their child if they are abusing a drug as well. (Thio, 2010, P. 287)
The journal Family Relations, discusses the use of drugs as a way to cope by saying, “There is some evidence that both adult and adolescent substance abusers lack effective coping skills. In the present study, it is hypothesized that adolescents who become heavy substance users are predisposed toward coping strategies involving denial, avoidance, and/or distraction. This passive or avoidant coping style is posited to be a function of parental behavior and level of self-esteem” (Simons, 1989).
Most individuals arrested or sent to prison for drug uses are the poor and minorities. The text uses this example, “African Americans, for example, constitute only 12 percent of the U.S. population, but they usually make up over 50 percent of all arrests for various drug offenses” (Thio, 2010, P. 290). There is evidence that suggests that the law enforcers are forcing drug laws on minorities over whites. Because of this poor and minority communities will continue to have high rates of drug use and problems. (Thio, 2010, P. 290)
“Advocates of legalization content that, like prohibition (of alcohol) in the 1920s, current drug laws do more harm than good” (Thio, 2010, P. 290). It’s believed that crime rates actually increase. Advocates also feel that if drugs were legalized that the money spent on law enforcement can be used for drug treatment and education and we would also be taking away money from drug traffickers. (Thio, 2010, P. 290) Most Americans are not for legalizing drugs. They are afraid that the addiction rate will increase significantly. (Thio, 2010, P. 290).
Minorities suffer the worst when it comes to antidrug law enforcement. Today drug use isn’t sterotyped towards minorities as much as it once was because some athletes and actors are now using drugs. There will always be anti-drug groups along with groups fighting towards the legalization of certain drugs. Within the last several years there have been many changes to laws in relation to drug use. One example is the most recent law to ban smoking in public places.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education – This program is taught in schools all over the U.S. More than 60 % of schools teach DARE. A police officer goes from the classrooms teaching substance abuse education. “The aim of the program is to prevent drug use by teaching students about the perils of drug use and then showing them how to develop social skills, raise self-esteem, resist peer pressure to use drugs, and seek drug-free alternative, such as tutoring younger children or developing a hobby” (Thio, 2010, P 291). There are mixed emotions on how effective the DARE program really is at preventing drug use. A lot of people feel that the program only reinforces the idea that drug use is bad in the minds of the children who’s parents had already taught them that and those children who are at risk of drug use are not affected by the program. Those children who are at risk of using drugs are those with the following experiences: -A family history of alcoholism -Family history of criminality -Poor parental child-rearing practices -Parental drug use or permissive attitudes towards drugs -Early antisocial behavior in school, -Alienation and low commitment to getting an education -Academic failure in middle to late elementary school -Socializing with friends who take drugs (Thio, 2010, P. 292)
According to The Journal of Marriage and Family, “Previous studies have established that substance abuse and other delinquent behaviors in adolescence constitute a problem behavior syndrome. Consistent with these previous studies, we found that the multiple dependent variables used in this study are significantly correlated” (Thomas, 1996). Delinquency and drinking and then from drinking and drug use are related.
Also according to The Journal of Marriage and Family, “Parents’ denial of their adolescents’ drug use is one characteristic of families with adolescent drug abusers, yet few studies have examined parental awareness of adolescent’s alcohol use, especially among high school students” (Bogenschneider, 1998). This tells us that the DARE program might serve more purpose then they originally thought.
The three main types of treatment are chemical treatment, psychological therapy, and therapeutic community. Chemical treatment: Included in chemical treatment is detoxification. “Detoxification involves the use of nonnarcotic chemical or a required rest to bring the patient into a drug-free state” (Thio, 2010, P. 292). It isn’t a cure to addiction because it doesn’t stop the cravings. But it does allow for the individual to being maintenance therapy which is where the patient is given a different drug to help wean them off the illicit drug. (Thio, 2010, P. 292) Psychological therapy: This involves group therapy and aversion therapy. “Aversion therapy involves making patients associate their drug of choice with some unpleasant experience” (Thio, 2010, P. 292). This treatment also can involve electric shock. Personal therapy helps patients find the psychological causes of the abuse. A lot of times they focus on low self esteem or things along those lines. Group therapy is where a group of addicts meet to discuss their lives and struggles with dug use. (Thio, 2010, P. 292) Therapeutic Community: In this type of treatment addicts live together and become a family. They aren’t allowed to see any outside contacts, not even family. This treatment is supposed to work because they form the family bond and help each other without the use of drugs. (Thio, 2010, P. 292)
Why do smokers continue to smoke even though they know the horrible risks? A lot of them are addicted and cannot quit. Others find that even if they can quit, they don’t want to because they feel smoking has more benefits rather than consequences. They feel that “benefits include releasing tension, feeling relaxed, and enjoying quiet companionship or lively conversation” (Thio, 2010, P. 296).
Legal drugs are less dangerous than
Legal drugs are more dangerous and
kill more people than illegal drugs do.
People who use illegal drugs are
addicted, compulsive, and/or heavy
Most people who use illegal drugs are
using experimentally, occasionally, or
“Once a junkie, always a junkie”;
people addicted to heroin will never be
able to stop using.
If the cause of heroin use is removed,
the addiction can go away.
Because of tough laws against drug
use, the United States has a lower rate
of use than most other countries.
The United States has the highest rate of
drug use in the world.
Drug use is even in all classes of
The highest number of drug users are in
the lower classes, and usually socially
and/or economically oppressed.
Most cigarette smokers are unaware
of the dangers of smoking.
Most people are in fact aware of the
dangers and often overrate the risk of
Drug use causes criminal behavior
because there are so many poor users
who need to rob or steal money to get
Drug use doesn’t necessarily cause
crime. Most drug users have a
criminal record before they began
People who use marijuana WILL
progress to harder drugs.
Marijuana use doesn’t cause drug
escalation; the cause is most likely
due to the user having friends who are
using harder drugs.
Marijuana use is so dangerous that is
banned in almost all 50 states.
11 states have legalized marijuana
use for medical purposes.
There are more people who use legal drugs than illegal drugs.
125 million Americans drink alcohol.
62 million Americans smoke cigarettes.
20 million Americans use illegal drugs.
Each year, two legal drugs (alcohol and cigarettes)
combined kill at least 60 times more people than all the illegal
Types of drugs are separated into 3 categories in accordance to
their effect on the central nervous system.
› Stimulants (stimulate activity of the CNS and produce alertness)
› Depressants (reduce activity of the CNS and cause relaxation)
› Hallucinogens (disturbs the CNS and alters perception of reality)
Marijuana is in a class by itself because it can cause the user to
react in ways that could be considered be similar to any of the
three types of drugs.
Certain factors influence the effect of the drug on the user.
3) Drug mixing
4) Method of administration
Most used illegal drug in the U.S.
Short term effects include:
› Memory Loss
› Increased heart rate
Long term effects include:
› Respiratory diseases
› Heart problems
Withdrawal symptoms are:
› Mild nausea
› Loss of appetite
Believed to be the “gateway” to harder drugs
Used in some states for medical purposes
Can be smoked, sniffed through the nose, taken orally, or injected
into the skin, muscle, or vein
A psychological dependence can easily be developed because of
the “rush” users experience.
Also very physically addictive
Withdrawal symptoms include:
A user must keep using in order to relieve withdrawal symptoms.
Effects of this drug are:
› Provides a sense of elation and well-being
› Enhances self-confidence, supplies a sense of mastery and competence at whatever the
user is doing
› Increases energy and suppresses fatigue, enabling the user to continue mental and/or
physical activity longer and more intensely
› Physical effects are increased heartbeat and raised body temp and blood pressure
Physically addictive and withdrawal symptoms included exhaustion
and stomach cramps
Extremely psychologically addictive due to the high quality of
pleasures the user derives from it
The “coming down” process cause such gloom that the only
remedy is to use more cocaine.
The most expensive drug and a status symbol of wealth and used
primarily by affluent whites.
Crack cocaine is the less pure and cheaper form of cocaine
Users of “crack” are often younger and poorer
More addictive and dangerous than cocaine; the National Institute
on Drug Abuse states that crack addiction develops in only 6-10
Can be extremely dangerous if taken in large doses or used
frequently over an extended period of time and can cause:
› Extreme irritability
› Symptoms of psychosis
› Sensation of bugs crawling under the skin
› *OVERDOSE can cause severe headaches, nausea, and convulsions with the possibility of
the total respiratory and cardiovascular system to collapse
Relatively cheap and very available
Used to be known as “poor man’s cocaine” and popular among
white men in the working class, ages 18 to 34, but currently has
spread to men and women of all classes
Easily made from cold medicines like Sudafed, so congress passed
the Combat Methamphetamine Act, which required them to be
purchased from behind the counter in pharmacies
When initially used, suppresses appetite, causes euphoria, boosts
self-confidence, and energy…but after a tolerance is developed, it
causes depression and intense paranoia.
Related to the sedative Valium but 10 times stronger
Actually a prescription drug for severe insomnia
Also known as “the date-rape drug” after men began using it on
women to make them blackout and rape them
Besides memory loss and blackouts, it can cause aggression,
fearlessness, addiction, and/or lethal overdoses.
Sometimes combined with alcohol to produce a quick high
Chemical name: methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)
Popular amongst high school and college students as well as affluent
Often taken at a dance club or party
Mood-altering, psychedelic drug that causes a strong desire for human
A single dose can cause brain damage
Causes the body to overheat; if people who use it do not take in
enough water, they may suffer from dehydration, organ failure, or brain
damage….drinking too much water can cause death from thinning out
the blood as well.
Drug use is not an individual behavior….it is a social behavior!
Many drug users are involved and it doesn’t affect just the
individual, it affects the entire society!
Four social dimensions of drug use:
› The extent of drug use in the United States
› How U.S. society reacts to drug use
› The impact of drug use on the spread of AIDS
› The influence of drug use on crime
Young adults ages 18 to 25 have the highest rate of drug use and
teenagers ages 12 to 17 have the second highest
The United States has the highest rate of drug use in the world
Most drug problems, such as drug addiction, death from overdose,
and drug-related homicides are more common in lower-classes
Table 11.1 Users of Drugs in 2006:
Drug # of People Using the
Drug in the Past Month
Marijuana 14.8 million
Cocaine 2.4 million
Meth 0.7 million
Ecstasy 0.5 million
Heroin 0.3 million
Intravenous injection of illegal drugs can spread HIV, the virus that
causes AIDS, from one user to another.
Most drug users with AIDS are heroin users and caught the disease
by sharing needles with other addicts.
Of all AIDS cases in the United States, 30% resulted from drug use,
and even higher in some cities, such as:
› New York City- 40%
› Newark- 65%
Almost half of people arrested for crimes in the United States used
illegal drugs within three days of committing the crime.
Studies have shown that drug users are 3 to 4 times more likely to
commit a crime when compared with nonusers.
Drug Enslavement Theory: “drug users are forced into a life of crime
because they cannot pay for their prohibitively expensive drug habits
unless they rob or steal the money to get their next fix”
› “Users living in poverty, have inadequate education, lack job skills, face racial
discrimination, and/or suffer other social disadvantages because they are relatively
poor, uneducated, and economically unskilled”
General Deviance Syndrome Theory: drug users who are criminals
continuing deviancy and were committing crimes before starting drug
The higher the status, the more likely to use marijuana
Heroin is the most popular among lower status people, especially
those who live in poor, inner city areas
Cocaine is more common with affluent people because of its
expense and crack cocaine is more common among poor people
because it is cheaper
Meth and roofies are found more among the working class and the
Ecstasy is mostly used by high school and college students or
Four stages associated with becoming a drug user:
› Occasional Use (once a week or less)
› Regular Use (once a day or more)
› Addiction (unable to break the habit)
A user may go through all stages or stop at any stage
Most users are introduced to drugs by their friends
Howard Becker (1963) identified 3 steps of learning how to become
a marijuana user:
› Learning the technique of how to get high by watching friends
› Learning to recognize the effects of the drug
› Learning to enjoy the effects
18-25 yrs old
Learn to use
If in high school
more likely to
The link between drug
abuse and deprivation
Explanation on why
poor people turn to
Designed to explain
Explains why people of all walks of life use drugs
Drug laws against minorities
Law enforcement aimed at foreign
Advocates fight the idea that current
drug laws do more harm than good
Most Americans oppose legalization –
fear of drug addiction rise
Two basic strategies:
“Using law enforcement to stop the supply of drugs
and punish drug sellers and users” (Thio, 2010, P. 288).
“Using drug prevention (or education) and treatment
to reduce the demand for drugs and help drug
addicts” (Thio, 2010, P. 288).
In 2008 $8.3 billion spent on enforcing drug
In 2008 $4.6 billion spend in incarcerating
Fist battle on drugs was in 1875
Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE)– This
program is taught in schools all over.
-Legal drugs are more
-Legal drugs are more
dangerous over time
-Smoking is related to lung
-Smokers make up 25% of U.S.
-13 % of young adults (12-17
years old) smoke in any given
-White teenagers are more
likely to smoke over blacks but
as adults blacks are more likely
-Those with less education are
more likely to smoke.
-There are many more adult
male smokers than adult
Thio, Alex. Deviant Behavior. Tenth Ed. 2010. Boston, MA. Pages 269-284.
“Preincarceration Patterns of Drug and Alcohol Use by Jail Inmates.” Criminal Justice
Policy Review. 1991. Pages 5-40. Sage Publications. Accessed on Sept. 16,
Stein, Judith A., Michael D. Newcomb, and P.M. Butler. “An 8-Year Study of Multiple
Influences on Drug Use and Drug Use Consequences.” University of California, Los
Angeles. American Psychological Association, Inc. 1997. Accessed on Sept. 16,
Bogenschneider, K., Wu, M., Raffaelli, M., & Tsay, J. C. (1998). "Other teens drink, but
not my kid": Does parental awareness of adolescents alcohol use protect
adolescents from risky consequences? Journal of Marriage and Family, 60(2),
356-373. Retrieved September 17, 2010, from
Simons, R. L., & Robertson, J. F. (1989). The impact of parenting factors, deviant peers,
and coping style upon adolescent drug use. Family Relations, 38(3), 273-281.
Retrieved September 17, 2010, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/585052.
Thio, A. (2010). Deviant behavior (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn
Thomas, G., Farrell, M. P., & Barnes, G. M. (1996). The
effects of single-mother families and nonresident
fathers on delinquency and substance abuse in black and
white adolescents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 58(4),
884-894. Retrieved September 17, 2010, from