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Drug Use in Today’s Society

  • Drug use is taking an aspirin for a headache, or a single dose of cough syrup for a cough or a hit of acid.
  • How the drug is taken has an effect on how the body reacts.
  • How much and how often are points that make the difference between normal use and abuse.
  • Four principles of psychoactive drugs:
  1. Drugs are not bad or good; they are not evil, they are a substance. By itself a drug cannot do anything until it enters a body. Some drugs help the body function when taken correctly but can cause harm when misused or abused.
  2. Every drug has multiple effects. No part of the body works independently from the rest; all systems are connected. When a drug is taken it affects all parts of the body it passes through.
  3. Both size and the quality of the drug affect the effects of the drug. The better the quality, or the larger the dose the larger the response or the more severe the response.
  4. The effects of a drug depend on the person. Not only personality, but age, race, weight… all  of them influence how the body takes in and responds to the drug.
  • History tells us that humans have used, misused and abused some plants or substances for as long as humans have been around.
  • Four pharmacological revolutions
  1. 19th century – vaccines. This is the first time drugs were used to help stop the number one killers at the time: communicable diseases. For the first time there were drugs that were powerful and have selective beneficial effects. This helped people have faith in medicine stopping illness.
  2. WWII – antibiotics. Not only did they help cure diseases but also helped prevent infection. This got us to the point that we are now; we expect to take something to fix everything.
  3. 1950’s – anti-psychotic drugs. This was the first time that drugs were used to treat psychotic disorders. This changed the way people saw and treated mental illness. We have new drugs that effect how we think, our emotions, and perceptions.
  4. Oral contraception – now we have control of our body through chemicals. Some drugs are not meant to treat anything but to control and change the way the body was meant to work.
  • Then there were many social changes in the US: The Beatles, civil rights, Vietnam, LSD, etc. Drugs became more common and accepted.
  • In 1971 Nixon declared the first “War on drugs”; yet during this time the legal drinking age was lowered and penalties for having marijuana were eased.
  • In the 80’s tolerance lessened. The legal drinking age was raised to 21 again and penalties were stiffened on all drugs, including marijuana.
  • Perception of the risk – when the perception of the risk is low the use is high and vice versa. This differs from perception of availability.
  • Longitudinal studies are one way we have looked for antecedents of drug use.
  • Evidence tells us not to do things but we do them anyways; from eating too much, driving too fast,drinking too much, texting while driving, and driving while intoxicated
  • Cultural trends influence what drugs are being used.


Drug Use: An Overview – Slide show (recommended)

Drug Use as a Social Problem – Slide Show


Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior, by Carl Hart, Charles Ksir, and Oakley Ray

Drugs, Behavior, and Modern Society by Levinthal, C.

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