The social problem of drug and alcohol abuse is national and indiscriminate who it takes victims. The social problems of alcohol and drug abuse have existed for centuries and no cure has been found. Alcohol and drugs have been used and abused by some of the most influential people of the world. The founder of modern psychology, Sigmend Freud used Cocaine as did the great detective Shrelock Holms. Throughout history drugs of all sorts have went from one extreme to the next, heroin used to be given as a pain killer of tooth aches and opium mixed with alcohol called laudanum was the mothers cure all, at times even given to children for teething. As time changed and medical science grew the true effects of drugs were discovered and one by one deemed illegal by society. The idea of drug abuse is centuries old and for any structure / function to exist throughout history, in all cultures with no end in sight must provide an important role in all societies. I will attempt to explain why alcohol and drug abuse is a need and necessary role / function for society to maintain equilibrium.
The structure functionalist would see alcohol and drug abuse as a needed function in society to exist in a efficient manner. In past times abuse of drugs and alcohol was legal and rather common throughout society. The use and abuse of chemicals to alter a individuals reality was a needed release of stress and tension making life in a bleak existence possible. For Spencer this would be a dysfunction, the outcome is detrimental for society but needed for existence. In one aspect the function of drug and alcohol abuse is to provide employment for large portions of society. One important function is the illegal income for the individuals involved in the illegal drug market. This provides a high income potential for those members of society that see standard and legal means of achievement out of the reality. (mostly lower class and uneducated) The next area of employment is the legal system, thousand upon thousands of people are employed trying to stop the use of illegal drugs. (cops, lawyers, corrections, education, etc…)
The next area of employment is the treatment of addictions to drugs and alcohol. One area I see as the main function of Drug and Alcohol abuse is for society to have an escape goat for those people that fall through the cracks. The homeless people are called winos or junkies, this allows society to blame there misfortune on the drug or alcohol not the underlying cause of the need for chemical abuse. The politicians use drug and alcohol as a cause of win, win situations. When President Reagan declared War of Drugs he was supported by all of society, no one is going to fight against a universal goal for the good. The underlying reasons Pres. Reagan declared war of drugs was because he would win approval by society but by focusing attention on drugs it allowed him to avoid other more questionable and conflictual issues. (I.E. poverty, health care, economy, deficit growth etc…) If there was a cure found for drug and alcohol abuse I wonder if it would be made available to society for the simple fact that it would remove an area of national concern. Marx would see the use of drugs as a economic division.
Those of the upper class that abuse drugs or alcohol are free thinkers or individuals but those of the lower class are scum or a blight on society. The upper class can afford treatment in quality treatment centers which work with the individuals and their environment to aid recovery. Those of the lower class receive minimal treatment centered on the individual change and for less extensive periods of time. The lower class must wait months for treatment in a governmental facility that is centered on numbers rather than individuals. Dubious would also see this as a line of race since there majority of the lower class is composed of minorities, it would go to reason that minorities are not receiving the same quality as the whites. He would see this as a reason or excuse to hold the minorities back, not allowing them to advance the same as whites. Leading to a feeling of superiority by whites therefor giving a foundation to racism. The best example of this I can think of is the TV show Cops, if the public is shown repeatedly that minorities use, abuse, and sell drugs eventually society will stereo type all minorities based on these examples.
Society is shown that all minorities use, abuse and sell drugs. So we know were the War on Drugs needs to focus. Dont we? I personally feel the structure functionalist perspective is more convincing. I relate this as the same as the reason for poverty or any other negative aspect of society it is a need function other wise it would have been disregarded as time changes. The Marxian idea of conflict is not totally out of reality but it is harder to relate to. I see roles of society to be needed or discarded. I like the example used by Henry Ford in the early 1930s, he was asked about the rising future of the car and the decline of the functions of horses. He responded on these lines, in the mid 1800s there was a huge market for wagon wheels and several firms supplied much of the market but even the best wagon wheel makers went out of the business because of decreasing demand for an outdated product. If a supplier is unwilling to change as the market changes then they become obsolete and die as progress continues.
Thomas Jefferson once said Progress in like a train, you can get on board and go with it, you can step a side and let it pass you by, or you can stand on the tracks and let it run you down. I do not know what to write as a bibliography, all information was from personal experience, or as material learned through your class and others. I know a bit about drug and alcohol abuse because this was the focus of my social work internship. The quotes stated were told to me either in a class or personal but they seemed to stick and I recalled them from memory. If this is not sufficient please let me know am I will try my best to come up with a more detailed list of sources.