The Problem of Drug Abuse by Women

Subject: Law
Pages: 6
Words: 1445
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: College


Drugs are substances which are consumed by an individual to induce some desired effects in the body and thoughts of that individual, not as may be prescribed by a physician (Rees 23). Examples of drugs include cocaine and heroin. When used for the wrong reasons and in the wrong dosages, they amount to drug abuse. Drug abuse has emerged as an international social problem, which affects different segments of society. It is also an offense as per the laws of many countries. Most of people who abuse drugs do so as a result of social pressure, or peer influence (Rees 23). In this assignment, I will be discussing the problem of drug abuse by women using the strain theory of criminology.


The problem of drug abuse in the United States of America is a serious one. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) report, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a component of the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than four million women of various ages, races and cultures use drugs. The report further shows that in the past one year, over nine million women have used illegal drugs while over 3.7 million women confirmed having taken prescriptions for drugs none medically in the last one year. According to NIDA, over 28000 (which is an equivalent of 70%) of all Aids cases in women were related to drug abuse (National Institutes of Health, 2011).

According to NIDA still, about half of all the women aged between 15 and 44 years reported having used drugs at least once in their lives. Most of the women (6million) reported using marijuana while some 2 million reported using cocaine. The report also indicated that many women abuse more than one type of drug in their life time (National Institutes of Health, 2011).

The above report indicates that the problem of drug abuse among the women is a real one in the United States of America. Most of the women abuse drugs due to trauma resulting from sexual abuse at early ages. Infant, over 70% of the cases of drug abuse among the women was attributed to sexual assaults at early ages (National Institutes of Health, 2011). The influence by parents and peers is also a factor in causing women to engage in drug abuse.

Women who abuse drugs are exposed to various risks like contracting sexually transmitted infections, and developing some mental disorders like depression or schizophrenia (National Institutes of Health, 2011). Such women also become isolated from the society, have lowered self-esteem, have a feeling of being powerless and lack confidence. The sharing of needles also puts them at great risk of transmitting HIV aids to one another and for those who are pregnant; they risk not only compromising their health but also that of their unborn babies.

One major effects of drug abuse are the violation of societal norms, rules and regulations which are institutionalized to govern the conduct of individuals in a given country or society. People use drugs to distort reality, and get courage to do some acts, which they cannot be able to do when they are sober. Women who abuse drugs may engage themselves in social deviation, which may take the form of engaging in criminal acts or becoming morally or socially irresponsible, to the extent that they don’t care much about the impacts of their actions to others (Rees 23).

According to the strain theory (Kendall 179), which originated with the renowned sociologists Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton, people become deviant or engage in criminal acts and offenses like drug abuse or trade, not because of their wish, but due to strains in the society, which may be structural or individual strain means that the society is divided into social structures, which are synonymous to social classes. These social structures are characterized by inequalities in the society. This makes individuals of the lower classes or the marginalized segments of the society strain in meeting their basic needs because the society offers limited opportunities for them to do so (Ferrante 187).

Individual stain means that the individuals strain in their efforts to meet some secondary needs for the society, while they are unable to meet their primary needs. For example, an individual may be expected to get married at a certain age, but he or she may not have the resources to support a marriage union. Such an individual would therefore experience pain and strain as he or she tries to meet the secondary need (marriage) at the expense of primary need like (food or shelter) (Samaha 88).

When this happens, individuals may become innovative; to be able to meet their needs or forget about them, which would relieve them of the pressure and stress they face due to their inability to meet those needs. One of the ways of becoming innovative is by using drugs.

The individuals use drugs to distort the reality and become unconscious of their present challenges, which enable them to cope with those challenges. Others may use the drugs and engage in criminal activity, to obtain money to take care of their needs. Its strength in explaining the problem of drug abuse is that it points directly at the macro level of the problem, which once addressed, may greatly reduce the rates of drug abuse. To expound on this, if the inequalities within a society are addressed, then everybody would have opportunities to meet his or her needs without strain, which makes them engage in offences like drug abuse.

The weakness of strain theory in explaining the problem of drug abuse is that it appears to lay a lot of emphasis on the types of strain (structural and individual) at the expense of the sources of the strains which may cause people engage in drugs and consequently in deviant behaviour. It overlooks the micro level sources of strain, which contribute a lot in causing strain in individuals.

The theory seems to overlook the influence of emotional distress, which is caused by people’s inability to meet their needs, not due to the social forces or factors but due to personal weaknesses. There are people who even when placed in a socially enabling environment to meet their needs, they are unable to do so due to their weaknesses, which may be psychological or developmental. Such individuals engage in drugs as a defence mechanism.

One way of preventing drug abuse among women is through educating them on the dangers of drug abuse both to them and the society at in general. The interventions should be focused at addressing the root causes of drug abuse. For instance, the problem of poverty and unemployment is one major cause of drug abuse. The government should therefore initiate programmes to empower the women economically so that they can be able to meet their needs adequately.

Counselling is another way in which women drug abuse may be reduced. Programmes of counselling should be started, in which the women would be counselled and get rehabilitated back to the society through being educated on how to acquire new behaviours, which are not depended on drug use. Such a strategy would attain massive success because change of behaviour is very crucial in shaping the attitudes and perceptions of an individual towards life. Positive attitudes towards life enable individuals to cope with challenges in life, without them engaging in drug and substance abuse. The problem of sexual assault like rape should also be addressed. Men who abuse young women sexually should be heavily punished to stop that behaviour.


The problem of drug abuse is a real one. Majority of women abuse drugs to cope with some challenging life situations. The abuse of drugs is very dangerous to the health of the individuals as well as to the general public because those who abuse drugs engage in criminal acts (Rees 23). The drugs also slow down the mental processes of the individuals who abuse them, thereby making them unable to contribute towards the development of the nation.

Strain theory asserts that drug abuse is a way of individuals meet their needs, which they are unable to meet under normal circumstances. The theory views drug abuse as a strategy adopted by individuals to meet their needs, and those of the society, which also creates the strain in meeting the needs due to lack of fairness in social structures (Kendall 179). The theory however does not take into consideration the influence of other factors like personal weaknesses or incompetences which may prevent individuals from meeting their needs. Drug abuse may be prevented by economic empowerment as well as through counselling programs.

Works Cited

Ferrante, Joan. Sociology: A Global Perspective. New York, NY: Cengage Learning, 2010. 187.

Kendall, Diana. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. New York, NY: Cengage Learning, 2008. 179.

National Institutes of Health. Women and Drug Abuse. NIDA. Web.

Rees, Jonathan. Drugs. New York, NY: Black Rabbit Books, 2005. 23.

Samaha, Joel. Criminal Justice. New York, NY: Cengage Learning, 2005. 88.