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Drug Use and Abuse: Prevention and Treatment Report

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Updated: Jul 31st, 2020

Stages of Drug Addiction

There are several stages in which an individual becomes a drug addict. The first step is an experimental use of substances. It is common for adolescents experimenting with alcohol, cigarettes, and, in most severe cases, drugs. This behavior is imposed by the social environment because it is seen as a norm. During the second stage, initiation, people start taking drugs intravenously. Even though they experience some unpleasant side effects, pleasure, and enjoyment from taking a substance overweigh discomfort. The next step is a commitment in which drug addiction is established.

This phase in characterized by making new social connections to buy needed substances and share experiences with other members of a social group accepting the same values. The fourth stage is dysfunction marked by limiting social ties to other drug addicts and becoming involved in illegal activities to find drugs. It is often accompanied by imprisonments and forceful drug-treatment programs. In most severe cases, this is the last phase because it ends up with the death of an addict. However, sometimes, they reach the fifth grade – maturation. It is characterized by giving up drugs and returning to normal life and reintegrating into society (Abadinsky, 2013).

Models of Drug Prevention and Their Effectiveness

There are several drug prevention models such as situational, deterrence, and incapacitation strategies. Situational drug prevention refers to convincing members of risk groups to avoid deviant behaviors. The emphasis is made on both educational opportunities and imposing fear of punishment in case of violating acceptable social norms. As for deterrence models, they can be either general or specific. In the case of general deterrence, stress is laid on developing strict regulations and punishments so that people are afraid to infringe them.

It is characterized by aggressive policies and death penalties. As for specific deterrence, it implies punishing known criminals. However, the focus is made on hard measures so that people do not want to become engaged in criminal activities in the future. Finally, incapacitation prevention model centers on minimizing opportunities for committing crimes and incarcerating known criminals both for educating other members of society and controlling criminals’ behavior (Siegel, 2016).

That said, these models are driven either by choice or fear. It should be noted that models of choice (i.e. promotion of educative measures) are more effective because they include the free will of individuals and improve the social atmosphere thus leading to solving the drug problem. On the other side, imposing fear aggravates the challenge because of fostering inner protest and enhancing law violations (Lab, 2016).

Theories Describing Drug Addiction


Anomie is a theory of social normlessness. According to the postulates developed by Merton, social norms are ineffective because some members of society believe that social control functions are distributed unevenly and government and wealthy people have more power than they should. Normlessness derives from unexpected shifts in social norms or traditions.

Nowadays, there are two causes of eroding norms – culturally determined life goals and legitimate means for reaching them (Siegel, 2016). Stress is laid on access to education and the distribution of social wealth. Because social inequality is a common problem, those affected by it are under the risk of becoming drug addicts.

Differential Association

Edwin Sutherland’s differential association theory views drug addiction from the perspective of learned experience. That said, drug abuse is a by-product of social interactions and communication within an intimate group whether it is a family or adolescents. According to this theory, people do not become drug addicts because of family problems, low IQ, or natural predisposition. Instead, it is connected to the process of socialization. To sum up, if a person grows up witnessing drug addiction as a social norm, then the risk of becoming a drug addict is extremely high because it is an appropriate social reality within a particular group or class (Siegel, 2016).

Social Control

Social control theory investigates drug addiction from the perspective of socialization. It is believed that a properly socialized individual is confident that violating socials norms or breaking laws will hurt welfare and ties with other members of society. It means that they limit their desires to support commitment to conformity. However, in the case of improper socialization, individuals do not recognize the necessity of laws and social conformity. Because they are not afraid of being punished, it leads to diverse deviant behaviors such as drug addiction and criminal activities (Siegel, 2016).


The theory of delinquent subcultures described by Albert Cohen is based on social injustice and differences between social groups. That said, drug addiction like any other delinquent behavior is a result of a protest against inequality and varying norms, values, and traditions of different classes of society.

Because success measurements differ among social layers, those from lower ones do not have enough basic skills to achieve socially determined success measured in education level and wealth. That is why they create subcultures that accept their behavior and level of personal development as a norm (Siegel, 2016). However, in most cases, drug addiction and criminal activities are also a norm. So, avoiding them is impossible.


Labeling is also known as social reaction theory. It explains deviancy as a result of the negative influence of social labels on self-image and self-perception. That said, sometimes, labeled people give up and accept that labels describe their inner selves and turn them into a self-fulfilling prophecy (Siegel, 2016). There is another aspect of this theory stating that some behaviors are believed to be deviant because they are negatively labeled by laws and the majority of people. So, drug addiction is a negative social phenomenon because it is labeled so. However, perception might change over time just like it happened with the acceptability of abortions.

Approaches to Treating Drug Use


The medical approach to treating drug use is a common choice for overcoming addiction. However, treatment is carried out in special medical centers. Detoxification procedures utilize drugs similar to heroin such as methadone and naxalone, but their intake is controlled by healthcare professionals. These narcotics help ease withdrawal and give up drugs. Nevertheless, there is a severe problem connected to medical treatment, as both methadone and naxalone can be bought on the black market (Siegel, 2016).

Psychological Approach

A psychological approach to treating drug abuse is more effective because it centers on eradicating the causes of becoming an addict. There are different scenarios of this treatment varying from group therapy sessions with a leader who gave up drugs to biofeedback, aversion, and counseling (Siegel, 2016). Aversion refers to making addicts associate drugs with unpleasant physical experiences such as nausea or vomiting.

As for biofeedback, it focuses on muscle relaxation, breathing activities, meditation, and guided imagery as tools for controlling the desire to take drugs. Finally, counseling is related to seeking the aid of professional psychologists and guiding leaders who overcame the problem of drugs and reintegrated into society.


Abadinsky, H. (2013). Drug use and abuse: A comprehensive introduction (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Lab, S. P. (2016). Crime prevention: Approaches, practices, and evaluations (8th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Siegel, L. J. (2016). Criminology: Patterns, theories, and approaches (12th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

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