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In the chapter, The Drug Effect: Health, Crime, and Society, Suzanne Fraser and David Moore give new directions on discussions in the study of drug use. The authors examine the social and cultural meaning of drug use coupled with evaluating the public health provisions, law frameworks, and the measures associated with drug policy. In this respect, scholars seek to address the main issues relating to drug use and addiction.
The authors put together several drug use and addiction cases provided by various global elites in this field and a few emerging scholars. Ultimately, the authors combine individual pieces to offer a rich analysis that can be utilized as a study source as well as a teaching manual. Frazer and Moore (2011) suggest that drug use may lead to both physical and psychological effects emerging from the social and cultural processes of exchange via which the market operates. In this respect, they also lead to crime and other antisocial behaviors.
Issues raised in this case study
The origin of most of the tensions leading to drug use is among some of the issues raised, and they include group conformity, peer pressure, social marginalization, and crime. The same micro-economic environment that is promoting the growth of a legitimate business is also offering the opportunity for the drug market, thus giving drug producers and traffickers the chance to organize and sell drugs without being noticed.
Unlike in the legitimate business, the drug market has developed its kind of social relations, values, and language, which are only known and understandable to the market actors (Wilson 2010). Concerning group conformity, the authors show that for one to be accepted by drug users, s/he has to show the willingness to share as well learn behavior that makes him/her unique in a bid to avoid the police while transacting illegitimate business like the supply of heroin.
Peer pressure increases due to the lack of family and community cohesiveness, which has been viewed as the psychosocial antecedent promoting drug use and addiction (Boyle 2013). The absence of family care creates an environment that exposes individuals to the strain and stress of contemporary life, thus increasing the chances of engaging in drug use to avoid the harsh realities of life. Friends influence their troubled peers to seek solace in drug use to alter their consciousness.
For instance, as it is evident in this case, smoking is a shared activity with key socializing functions such as involvement in crime like drug trafficking. Just as the authors argue, the market exchange of heroin and other drugs may not be consistent with the market forces of supply and demand, but rather by social relations that view the market as a process that should be understood (Frazer & Moore 2011). In this process, friends, who use drugs, influence their peers through socialization and exposing them to an environment that encourages drug use, and they end up conforming.
Behaviour is a major issue explored in this chapter because it is the most evident and assumed factor that describes drug addicts. The authors have identified that drug markets are controlled by the behavior of market actors who promote illicit drug use. Behavior communicates various social meanings that are well understood via an ethnographic study. The ethnographic study entails living within the population that is under research through creating rapport in a bid to be in a position to study their group culture and dynamics (Sherman 2010) closely. Observing target drug users in their real-world provides a better understanding of why drug usage persists despite the users having knowledge about its effects.
Social relations differ in many ways within the drug market, and they are subject to various factors that include the issuance of gifts that create a sense of obligation and indebtedness (Jiloha 2009). One of the factors that keep the drug market moving is the fact that it operates through gift-giving. The authors identify that these systems are based on giving, receiving, and repaying. These gifts join individuals in circular chains of giving, receiving, and repaying. These cartels create solidarity, which makes the drug business prosper at the peril of the suffering addicts who do not seem to bother (Eitzen & Leedham 2004).
The authors indicate that during an early engagement with drug users, they tend to be cautious with people who seek to join drug use and to traffic voluntarily, which implies that it entails an initiation or endorsement by the existing dealers. Such social relations lead to intimate connections that continue to strengthen as one continues to cherish the groups’ set rules and values.
Social relations and processes surrounding drug use
The aspect of sharing drugs such as cigarettes increases the sense of belonging to the group, and existing smokers find it easy to accommodate a newcomer, given that s/he conforms to their group behavior. Drug users tend to exhibit solidarity, and they have a strong influence to resist pressure from the outside world, urging them to quit drug use (Isralowitz & Myers 2011). Through peer pressure, people are influenced through gifts meant to incorporate someone into the donor’s social network through usage or supply.
They are initiating gifts influenced by peers targeting to fix them to pay back since the relationship between donor and recipient is socially distinct. Through service and gift exchanges, donors and suppliers develop intimate social relations. The exchange of drugs between drug users and suppliers generates and maintains social relations and hierarchy.
The process of inclusion and acceptability is easily attained and sustained through drug exchange. Just like in many legitimate social groups where acceptability is earned and maintained through conformity, newcomers are easily initiated when they show interest in exchanging drugs and learn their language (Faguet 2010). Reciprocity is another factor that stabilizes the drug market. For instance, when a friend shares a cigarette, the receiver feels obligated to share the same on a different occasion, thus making it hard for users to withdraw. The communication in the drug market is unique, and only the suppliers understand it.
This commensurate sharing of drugs leads to other forms of relational obligations. The authors reveal that by the time they commenced their study, they were strangers, and thus most people avoided them until after months of their fieldwork when drug dealers started to talk to them openly about the drug marketplace. This level of intimate relation and trust is generated when members of a group share beliefs and practices (Fraser & Moore 2011).
Application to class work
In a bid to understand the dynamics of drug production and consumption, this case has identified that one has to engage an ethnographic study. Zinberg (1984) defines ethnography as the technique of evaluating how the cultural and symbolic meanings of social characteristics can be understood through frequent interaction with the study population. For instance, the case studied involved a participant who engaged in cigarette smoking directly and established that drug users share affiliations to certain styles of language and movements.
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In order to study a certain group, it is necessary to interact with its members and forge relationships in a bid to create mutuality and foster goodwill, drug addicts like sharing drugs (Furlong & Cartmel 2006). The authors demonstrate how ethnography helps in probing information on drug production and use within the large contexts of subcultural meanings and affiliations. In addition, the ethnography of the drug marketplace shows that complex and changing social processes and relations characterize the marketplace.
The film Ben: Diary of Heroin (2008) highlights similar issues that reaffirm that the problem of addiction is a social problem facilitated by the availability of these drugs. Ben Rodgers appeared to have a good social life until he got involved in drug use when his life drowned into chaos and despair. Understanding that he could not withdraw from drug use, Ben recorded his daily problems with a camera, hoping that others will watch and learn from his experiences.
This film is consistent with the case under review because they both demonstrate that retracting from drug use is difficult. For instance, smokers and heroin users start using these drugs to facilitate social interactions or alter consciousness, after which it persists. The reading and the film demonstrate that social problems such as health, crime, and drug trafficking results in violations of social norms, and drug users are not marginalized as presumed. The chapter and the film imply that the daily lives of drug addicts are not different from the lives of non-users since they undergo similar challenges.
As researchers, the authors have identified how one can negotiate identity within a group that initially possessed different social attributes. The authors have shown the necessity of ethnographic research by indicating that one can clearly understand production, drug exchange, drug use, and addiction. In this respect, certain social relations among drug dealers who engage in the same practices to accomplish shared goals define drug markets.
Ben: Diary of a Heroin Addict, 2008, [Documentary], Gecko Productions, New South Wales.
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