Drug Abuse Policy from a Sociological Perspective

The effectiveness of policies that are geared towards addressing the problems of deviant behaviors in society has been put into question because they failed in translating to positive outcomes. The reasons behind these failures are not hard to discern given the fact that some of these policies only proceed to aggravate the deviant problems they seek to solve. This essay seeks to provide an overview of deviant behavior in society by the application of relevant theories and examine the policy on teen drug abuse in the United States using recent trends in statistics.

Whereas some forms of deviant behaviors may be considered minor and ignored by society, some are very serious and often result in grave consequences. One deviant behavior that has remained a problem in society with serious consequences on the victims is drug abuse among teens. According to Baer and Chambliss (1997), “the law enforcement-industrial complex is sustaining some of the fastest growing corporations and some of the most powerful lobbies in the country.” Crime-related statistics have been distorted and as such effectiveness of policies cannot be measured. Statistics on teen drug abuse in the United States are indeed very worrying. The number of teens joining the brackets of drug abusers in the United States has recorded an increase in the past. This has called for the institution of relevant policies to address this form of deviant behavior in teens.

According to Pearson Education (2010), “illicit drug use by 8th graded teens was 30.3%, 10th grade was 44.9% while 12th grade was 52.8%.” illicit drugs within this sub-context refer to both soft and hard drugs. In addition to the above, “underage drinking costs the United States more than $58 billion dollars annually, enough for a new state of the art computer for every student and in the last thirty days 50% of teenagers report drinking with 32% being drunk at least on one occasion” (Pearson Education, 2010). This recent trend in deviant behavior among teens has called the institution of policies and redress in older policies aimed at addressing this social problem entrenched in society.

The policy on drug abuse that is famously known as the “drug war” has failed to live up to its expectations and is considered by critics as a failure. This is because despite the institution of this drug policy was seen as capable of controlling the consumption of hard drugs in the United States, statistics still reveal that the reverse is taking place and the United States is losing billions of dollars annually in lost productivity. According to Drug Policy Alliance (2010), “U.S. federal, state and local governments have spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to make America “drug-free.” Yet heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other illicit drugs are cheaper, purer and easier to get than ever before.” In addition to the above, “nearly half a million people are behind bars on drug charges – more than all of Western Europe (with a bigger population) incarcerates for all offenses” (Drug Policy Alliance, 2010). These statistics reveal that the drug war has failed to address this form of deviant behavior in society.

Other factors have also been pointed at by literature as critical contributors to failures in these policies. According To Reinarman (1994), many well-intentioned drug policy reform efforts in the United States have come face to face with the staid and stubborn sentiments against consciousness-altering substances and the repeated failures in such reform efforts cannot be solely in terms of ill-informed or manipulative leaders.” This demonstrates that a combination of factors has led to these policy failures. In addition to the above, the policies have taken one side that views anti-drug crusaders as imposing morality on others. The temperance culture has also been pointed as being most in the United States than in any other country has risen in the American society.

Baer and Chambliss (1997) on the other hand attach the failure of these policies to manipulation of data on crime by the law enforcement agencies by stating that “in the annual report the FBI resorts to gimmicks and tricks to make the problem of crime appear as threatening as possible.” This culture prevents people from accessing the true nature and statistics in crime. Buchan (2002) illustrates that

the purpose of punishment then, did not simply reform or correction of the offender, nor the management of delinquency, though each has played its part in penal development. Liberal arguments for penal reform also incorporated a concern for the delivery of deserved punishment on those whose indiscipline and improvidence threatened the peace and productivity of civil society, those who were deemed incapable of autonomous action

The failures behind these policies are based on the fact that they are inconsistent with the liberal tradition. Instead of solving the societal problems, they aggravated the problems and led to numerous conflicts.

One fact that has been pointed out as outstanding in the failure behind this policy is the war on drugs is that some of the provisions of this policy only act as precipitating factors and thus conflicts with the aims and objectives of the policy. “So-called drug-related crime is a direct result of drug prohibition’s distortion of immutable laws of supply and demand; public health problems like HIV and Hepatitis C are all exacerbated by zero tolerance laws that restrict access to clean needles” (Drug Policy Alliance, 2010). The drug war is therefore not a family promoter it was envisaged to me and could not address this form of deviant behavior in society. An increase in the consumption of drugs has made American teens exposed to the risks of educational failure, addiction, and teen delinquency. According to Drug Policy Alliance (2010), “drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse.”

From the discussions presented above, I am strongly against the policy of war on drugs because of its inability to address the problem it was instituted to address. I believe another effective policy that can control drug consumption is needed in the United States. One effective policy that I believe will lead to a cocktail of societal benefits in handling the problems of this form of deviant behavior is the entrenchment of drug lesson education in the curriculum from the fifth grade. This will be effective in enhancing the capacity of the teens to understand the effects of drug abuse. It has been advanced the foundations for responsible behavior can only be built from formative years. This remains the primary reason behind the advancement and support of this policy in addressing the deviant behavior of drug abuse among teens.

The effectiveness of this policy that gives it a competitive advantage over the policy of war on drugs is based on its ability to implant good character traits through role modeling and injection of skills in life management. Teens grow up equipped with knowledge on the effects of drugs and enhanced with the ability to make informed choices in life. I believe these ingredients make this policy stand above the policy of war on drugs that does not address the problem from the grassroots level.

The society for the study of social problems also points at the myth of Hispanic immigration and crime as the factor that has led to these policy failures. We have linked immigration to crime and attached a particular group of people to certain forms of crime. This denies us the opportunity to address the various deviant behaviors from informed perspectives. According to Hagan and Palloni (1999), “they are also more vulnerable to restrictive treatment in the criminal justice system, especially at the pre-trial stage.” This is because of the preconceived idea that they are guilty. “When these differences are integrated into calculations using equations that begin with observed numbers of immigrants and citizens in state prisons, it is estimated that the involvement of Hispanic immigrants in crime is less than that of citizens” (Hagan and Palloni, 1999).


Baer, J. and Chamblis, W.J. (1997). Generating fear: The politics of crime reporting. Journal of Crime, Law & Social Change 27: 87–107.

Buchan, B. (2002). Zero tolerance, mandatory sentencing, and early liberal arguments for penal reform. International Journal of the Sociology of Law. 30. 201–218.

Drug Policy Alliance (2010). What’s Wrong With the Drug War? Web.

Hagan, J. and Palloni, A. (1999). Sociological Criminology and the Mythology of Hispanic Immigration and Crime. Journal of Sociology. Vol. 46, No. 4. 617-632.

Pearson Education (2010). Overview of Drug Use in the United States. Web.

Reinarman, G. (1994). The Social Construction of Drug Cases. New York: Wadsworth Publishing Company.