Social Constructionism of Drugs

By: Victoria LeRoy, Ronisa Rhodes, and Chloe Roberts


  1. a medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body.

  2. a substance taken for its narcotic or stimulant effects, often illegally

― Oxford Dictionary

So why are drugs a problem anyway?

Prevalence of Illicit Drug Use

Big image
Image from Saylor's "Social Problems: Continuity & Change"

Problematic to us because...

Overindulgence in alcohol/drugs is bad for health

Capable of causing an individual to behave irrationally/lose self-control

Linked to crime and abusive behavior

Negative impacts on family/friends/society

Negative coping mechanism

Productivity may decrease w/ addiction

Values behind our reasons




Well being of family/friends/society

The Individual/their contribution or responsibility

Perspective: Functionalist

Drugs have been around since the beginning of time, and can be found in every part of the world (Saylor 301). The likelihood that someone will use drugs depends on gender, race/ethnicity,education, and religiosity. Drugs are a recreational activity, a coping mechanism, a multibillion dollar industry, and a job provider (Saylor 344). Even though “tobacco kills about 435,000 Americans annually” and “alcohol kills about 85,000 annually,” the role drugs play in the economy cannot be overlooked (Saylor 307­ and 308). Alcohol and tobacco have created “ 2 million jobs annually, more than $40 billion in wages, and more than $50 billion in taxes, and it contributes more than $160 billion to the annual national economy” (Saylor 313). Recognizing these profits, “alcohol abuse” also “costs the United States more than $185 billion each year in medical expenses, lost earnings because of alcohol ­related illness or premature death, lost earnings by victims of violent crime, and alcohol­ caused traffic accidents” (Saylor 315). It is unnecessary to eliminate drugs from the equation. Rather, with high substance abuse costs, it is important to encourage people not to overindulge and help those who are prone to excessive drinking/drug use.
Everything We Think We Know About Addiction Is Wrong

“People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.”

― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

How the problem is socially constructed

Media and culture dictate the importance of drugs in relation to society. In India alcohol use is a symbol of economic status, caste, a person's karma, and gender privilege, and is not seen as problematic. Hookah is a part of some middle eastern cultures and is seen as a socially acceptable activity for meeting with friends. The United States has turned simple marijuana use into a larger issue with the media referring to it as a “gateway drug” and forming it into a much larger problem in comparison to other countries.

Stories from prison


Klaue, K. "Bulletin On Narcotics." United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 1999. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

"Social Problems: Continuity & Change." (n.d.): n. pag. Saylor, 11 Jan. 2012. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

"UNITED NATIONS INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON DRUG ABUSE AND ILLICIT TRAFFICKING: DECISIONS OF THE CONFERENCE."International Legal Materials 26.6 (1987): n. pag. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 1987. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

All images are in the public domain and were obtained through morguefile