In an article entitled The Social and Health Consequences of Cocaine Use, Peter Cohen, in 2004, makes a comparison between a group of “skid row” alcoholics, drinking in a park and a group of academics drinking alcohol at a work related social function.
He further draws a comparison between cocaine use by people in poverty and social distress, and the selective and highly controlled use of cocaine by someone who is in regular employment and considered to be a success. The writer goes on to say that to answer questions about the social and health consequences of alcohol or cocaine use – you have to ask first – what kind of alcohol, or cocaine use do you mean.
He says that the answers to the social and health consequences of using alcohol and cocaine depend upon which group of people the user belongs, and the use patterns of the user.
In the article it is said that patterns of use might be determined by whether a person has a need to function in society, hold down a job, maintain an appearance, compared with someone who can effectively use alcohol or cocaine at any time because they have no social obligations, such as a health care recipient, in the inner city.
The article implies that drug effects are reduced when a person is of high socio economic status compared with those who live more marginalized lives.
Emphasis is also placed on the type of drug use, of either cocaine or alcohol – suggesting that drinking out of a bottle on skid row is less desirable than more controlled drinking , so as not to appear intoxicated.
The writer suggests that the type of drug effects that users will try to achieve relate to their social status, with the same need to use, but modified by constraints of social position.
The article says that if the use of the drug does not interfere with eating or normal social interaction, then there will be zero social effect of drug use.
However, if the user moves out of acceptable norms of drug use and or behavior for his social group then he will face rejection by his peers, and social relations might be greatly disturbed.
The result can be estrangement, ostracism and even death. Drinking and drug use within social norms is not seen as being detrimental.
The writer points out that people who develop extreme patterns of drug use, be it alcohol or cocaine can remedy and modify their behavior when the user finds the possibility of more useful adaptation.
The paper asserts that drug use is fine, provided users confine their drug taking to socially acceptable limits. That society would be better off allowing drug use and working to eradicate the social inequality and injustice, that leads to excessive drug taking. The article concludes that alcohol and drug use is a good thing, when not taken to extremes.
The article provides an overview of the function of drug use in society and in individuals. It implies that individuals choose to use drugs, such as alcohol or cocaine because drug use is a positive life experience. It suggests that drug users can control their drug use, as a personal preference and by their own free choice.
The inference of the article is that drug use at levels acceptable to a person’s social group, that does not interfere with nutrition or cause noticeable difficulties for the user – has creative benefits and causes no social harm.
The article is suggesting that society today is very much an alcohol and drug dependent society with drug use a positive influence, provided that it does not get out of hand.
The article brings out very clearly, the danger to a complacent society of allowing and even encouraging “safe” levels of alcohol or cocaine use, to maintain a drug dependent status quo.
Endemic substance abuse creates an illusion that everyone, is satisfied with their situation in life, is managing to “cope”, and is happy.
Any drug use in society, as a means of coping, is an indicator that society is not doing as well as we think.
No individual or society should be drug dependant at all, as a normal condition of life. The fact that people use drugs, and where drugs are used, is an indicator of where society and individuals are most vulnerable and fragile.
Social enquiry needs to focus on drug use, how and where it occurs - with a view to discovering what needs there are in society today that our tolerance and acceptance of widespread drug use is effectively covering up.
The article implies that it is only when drug use brings unforseen and unwanted consequences that the user will have any need to make drastic changes in his life and find a better way of coping. The reality is that by the time a drug user has become involved in extreme drug use patterns – there will be a high level of personal dependence upon the drug and an inability to make the necessary moves towards a more useful adaptation and to regain a more healthy way of living.
When people have allowed drug use to become part of their life, and their drug use becomes detrimental – what holds drug users to continued drug use is that they cannot see, or find for themselves that crucial “possibility of a more useful adaptation” towards a healthy new life.
Chronic drug use makes people less able to make positive changes, to imagine a life without drugs, at a community and personal level.
People need help to overcome drug dependence, long before drug use leads to obvious personal and social detriment.
People concerned about safe or acceptable levels of drug use need to rethink their reliance on drugs and can get help for positive change by calling a comprehensive drug recovery helpline for drug dependence advice and information.