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Drug Abuse in the United States’ Social Context

Drug abuse is a social problem, which is prevalent in society. A study done in 2016 has shown that the increase in substance misuse is attributed to the disconnect between the social context of addiction and neuroscience (Sunshine Behavioral Health, n.d.). In society, addicts experience marginalization and progressive social exclusion. The latter refers to situations when individuals are denied access to services, benefits, and opportunities in the society, whereas marginalized drug users are considered of less advantage than others. Those suffering from drug abuse are excepted from socialization and employment opportunities, and are judged by others inhibiting seeking for help and contributing to its continuity. This essay will examine how society influences drug abuse, theoretic perspectives which explain the problem, and how it emerged and is perpetuated.

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Influence of Society on Drug Abuse

Society plays a significant role in influencing drug abuse since most addictions arise from family issues such as childhood maltreatment, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. These social problems may lead to substance misuse by individuals trying to ease pain. Moreover, such social factors as deviant peer relationship, bullying, and gang affiliation contribute to substance use. Additionally, individuals with mental disorders such as hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder, are often at a greater risk of addiction.

Theoretical Perspectives on Drug Abuse

The functionalist theory describes drugs as a functional part of society by illustrating how the public contributes to the continued existence of the problem. This concept best explains drug abuse as it shows the reasons behind the prevalence of the issue. The functional perceptions on the community are as follows: to individuals, drugs have a positive physiological effect and create employment for groups and the criminal justice system. The society becomes dysfunctional from both legalized and illegitimate medicines. This theory

The conflict theory emphasizes the negative impact of drugs on society and provides an understanding of substance misuse through three perspectives. Primarily, people from poor urban areas abuse drugs because they want to feel better living poor conditions; in addition, drugs are usually a source of income in such places and do not require higher educational qualifications (University of Minnesota, 2015). The second view of the concept is based on considering the racial, ethnic prejudice and inequality mark as the factors determining why some drugs are illegal and the criminal judgment on these substances. Lastly, the theory highlights how multinational corporations have a great influence on the drug market and sales of legal substances such as tobacco and alcohol. In maximization of profit, these corporations try to influence America and other nations to actively use their products.

Emergence and Perpetuation of Drug Abuse

Drug abuse emerged as a result of societal needs, demands, and pressures on individuals. The functionalist theory takes substance misuse in a new perspective on how it has helped many lives. Furthermore, drug abuse has led to the development of employment opportunities (University of Minnesota, 2015). The system of criminal justice has provided thousands of job opportunities to individuals who handle drug abuse cases. Corporations which are concerned with addicts help people to manage the habit and also offer employment. The conflict theory, which emphasizes three dimensions of drugs, offers explanation of why people exploit medications, influential factors on substance misuse, and how international corporations have a great influence on the ill use of prescriptions. This concept provides insight into people valuing profit over the life.


Drug abuse is one of the main problems affecting people in United States. The society has contributed to the continued misuse of drugs today, either through bad parenting or the environment where individuals are raised. Through the theories of conflict and functionalism, people gain insight on the misuse of drugs. Addicts are judged and excluded from services, benefits, and opportunities that would otherwise improve their condition.


Sunshine Behavioral Health. (n.d.). The social context of addiction. Web.

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University of Minnesota. (2015). Social problems: Continuity and change (pp. 300-307). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing.

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