social problem is a condition that may result in negative effects and
consequences on the lives of a largenumber of people.
Things such as: teenage pregnancy, high school drop-outs, racism, and drugs are
common types of social problems. These problems, conditions, or behaviors
usually require attention (Leon-Guerrero, 2014, pg. 4). The individual accused of driving under the
influence (DUI) could cause a traffic accident with a random person. This
effects society’s safety as a whole, thus, is a social problem.
Spector and Kituse (1987) explained that social problems do not
develop over night, it is a process (Leon-Guerrero, p.4). Mahoney (2003) stated that in order for an
issue to be considered a social problem: the condition must be seen publicly,
be at odds with the values and beliefs of the
larger society, most people must view it as a “problem,” and there must
be a solution for the problem (Mahoney, 2003). “Social problems tend to develop
when we become neglectful and fail to see that serious problems are developing
(Leon-Guerrero, 2014, p. 6).
The sociological approach to understanding social problems,
according to Leon-Guerrero (2014) is “Unlike any other discipline, sociology
provides us with a form of self-consciousness, an awareness that our personal
experiences are often caused by structural or social forces (Leon-Guerrero,
2010, p. 4 ). The sociology of drug use and abuse encompass a wide range of
issues, including high crime rate, loss of family, loss of employment, and
homelessness. Sociologists focus their attention to factors such as: What makes
drugs a social activity? How does socialization, social interaction, and social
inequality play a role in substance use/abuse? What do societies do to control
drug abuse? Why is it tolerated in society? (Goode, 2006).
There are 4 sociological
perspectives used to examine social problems. The social conflict theory blames
heavy drug use (crack, heroin) on problems concerning inequality. This
perspective declares drug use and distribution is more likely to occur in a
poor, powerless, and socially disorganized communities. This theory assumes
that money, wealth, and power controls society. They assume the poor feel
powerless, and will more likely use drugs. The social conflict theory is unlike
the others, they embrace consensus, while social conflict deals with conflict,
and inequality (Goode, 2006).
is unlike the functionalist and conflict perspectives. This perspective
contends society and reality are shaped by people. At certain times in history,
some drugs were socially acceptable, and also legal(Goode, 2006). Symbolic
interactionism of the social reality, meaning, and reaction to drugs have
changed drastically over time (Goode, 2006).
perspectives view society as a system that works together to promote things
such as stability and control. Their focus describes that society should
maintain a certain level of stability in order to exist. These are desirable
events and chaos, would disrupt society. These things are considered
The feminist perspective
argues that women are targeted by laws concerning drugs during pregnancy.
According to Drug Policy Alliance (2003) stated that females face a stereotype
that could lead to a form of discrimination when trying to receive treatment
for drug abuse (Drug Alliance 2003b). As crack cocaine emerged prosecutors
turned their aim toward punishing pregnant women; not empowering them. Feminist
argued women were unfairly targeted with this gender-specific new law.
There are many reasons
why some social problems are more significant than others. If the social
problem only affects a small number of people, it is not considered as
significant. For example, blacks receive more attention than whites concerning
poverty. Why? Because blacks are a larger group of the minority population.
Other reasons are if the social problem or condition spreads rapidly is because
it is considered important. A social
issue also becomes more significant than others is if a celebrity, or an
influential person considers it important (Mahoney, 2003).
One of the more serious social problems that we face today is drug
usage and/or abuse. Drug abuse can lead to other social problems, such as
violence and crime. In 1999 the National Household Survey measured drug use by
the type of drugs used. Marijuana: 11.1 million, cocaine:1.5 million, and
413,000 crack users (National Household Survey, 1999). In terms of gender, A
Monitoring the Future Study (MTF) (1999) found that 8.7% of men used illicit
drugs, in comparison to the 4.9% of women. (Monitoring The Future, 1999).
According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), 45% of the 4.6
million treated in emergency rooms were due to drug abuse/misuse (Drug Abuse
Warning Network, 2009). In 2011 The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
(SAMHSA) reported: nearly 20% of whites have used cocaine, and 10% of blacks
and Latinos used cocaine. Crack was most popular among the African American
population (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, 2011).
Since earlier times in history there have been many precautionary
measures to control drug use. In October 1986 President Reagan signed the
Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. $1.7 billion dollars were spent to fight the war
Concepts mentioned in the
text the analyzes drug abuse are: the self control theory, social learning
theory, and the rational choice theory. The self control theory describes the
concept of people joining social circles that promote bad behavior. They
promote violence, gang, and other criminal activity. “Social environments for
exposure” is the name given to the concept of joining a social environment for
bad behavior approval and promotion. The self control theory helps us to
understand why people tend to choose these type of crowds over a group of
individuals who follow rules(Weinberg, 2011).
The social learning
theory suggests that people who watch addictive behaviors by others may likely
participate in addictive behavior. For example if a child watches a parent drink
alcohol before bed at night the child will likely repeat this pattern in the
future. The child learns by watching this habit (Weinberg, 2011). The rational
choice theory suggests that individuals act based maximizing their reward and
minimizing their punishment(Weinberg, 2011).
The sociological approach to understanding social problems is
different than other theories (functionalist, conflict, feminist, and
interactionalist) in many ways. Sociologist aim to study how society affects an
individual. Social problems are a result of how society can affect an
individuals, as well as their decisions (Weinberg, 2011).
Glicken, Morley. (2011). An Introduction to Social Problems, Social
Welfare Work Organizations, and
the Profession of Social Work. Retrieved from http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/38141_Chapter1.pdf
Goode, Erich. (2006). The Sociology of Drug Use. Retrieved from