Illegal Narcotic Consumption
Illegal narcotics consumption is one of the major criminal activities experienced in all countries across the globe. This is why I choose to study some criminal issues related to the crime. As one involved in the criminal prevention and ensuring public safety, it is important to understand what constitutes illegal narcotics consumption, and what drives people to get engaged in this criminal behavior. Knowledge of why and factors which contribute to drug taking in the society helps understand the extent to which the behavior is characterized as a crime, as well as, the appropriate preventive and corrective measures that could be adopted to ensure public safety, and reducing of possibilities and impacts of drug taking on individuals and the society. Most drugs are addictive and their impacts are widespread; however, there still some countries which do not criminalize illegal drug consumption. Despite strict anti-narcotics laws, countries such as the US are still experiencing high levels of narcotics consumption.
According to the Central Intelligence Agency (2011), illegal narcotics consumption is the illicit consumption of any drug obtained from opium as well as compounds which are similar to opium or are derived from it and can result into mental, behavioral, physical as well as emotional impairment in a person. Narcotic drugs can make one unconscious or sleepy.
This definition effectively describes the illegal narcotic consumption since the narcotic drugs listed by the International Narcotics Control Board are varied and have different chemical compositions (International Narcotics Control Board 2004). The definition covers all the narcotic drugs which are recognized conventionally.
Although I have various views as to why they think people often get involved in illegal narcotic consumption, I believe that people tend to get involved in the criminal behavior when highly stressed and have some significant amounts of money to spend. Teenagers are also likely to engage in this activity due to influence by their peers or if they are frequently bored. Some people decide to use narcotics to gain other effects given that doses of the drug can make the individual forget his or her problems as well as experience pleasant sensations. Boredom and stress creates a feeling that makes one want to have something that will keep the mind occupied and relieve the individual of the emotional or psychological stress/pain. Stress can influence one’s thinking and decision-making, and as a result, the person will use narcotics to help him or her escape his or her present problems. Most people usually enter drug taking while still teenagers when the brain has not yet fully matured so that by the time they become adults, they are addicts. According to the National Institute on Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism (2006), the brain keeps on developing up to twenties when its functions become fully refined. As a result, people in their teens or early twenties can be easily influenced by their peers to get involved into illegal narcotics consumption. Some young people can not make independent decisions about what their peers believe in or practice (Brown, D’Amico, McCarthy & Metrik 2004, 67).
They therefore, get carried away into taking drugs especially when their friends or those they hang out with express to them positive views of narcotic consumption. Peers may sometimes convince their member who is not yet into the drug to join so that he or she can feel the pleasure that they get from the drug. Out of curiosity and the pressure to fit into the group fully and behave like the rest of the group. This often happens to members of gangs. People who belong to a gang share common views which they all subscribe to and usually take similar direction or means of achieving their goals. They universally accept the use of a certain narcotic drug since they share a similar deviant subculture. The person will get into taking the drug since it helps him or her form a self-identity, and as a result, give him or her justification and rationalization to advance his or her criminal activities. In most cases, people tend to withdraw from people who illegally take narcotic drugs and even deny them the opportunity to participate in conventional groups and activities. They just stop to make any meaningful interactions with those who take narcotic drugs. This means that those who are already into drugs or involved in a gang which depend on a certain narcotic drug are normally left without any counseling to help them overcome drugs. They are labeled as deviants, drug addicts or criminals, and consequently, they continue taking the drug to maintain their status or class in the society.
Durkheim believed that despite the negative consequences of crime, there is the positive contributions of crime to a society. According to him, less crime in a contemporary society is not healthy. Factoring his opinion, this results from overly strict regulation of the members of the society and excessive individuation (Tierney 2006, 102). This affects the degree of integration in that society. Individuals in that society become extremely loyal to the system and customs and could even begin to think too little of their own lives. According to Durkheim, low levels of crime leads to low levels of integration. Whenever a person commits a crime; his or her consciousness conflicts with the collective consciousness (which is that of the society). Since the society normally has solidarity in their law system which is usually universal in that particular society, the person has to undergo a punishment, which will compensate for his or her neglect for the collective conscience. It is this crime-punishment act that helps maintain the unity of consciences of the society. However, because there is little crime committed in that particular society, crime-punishment acts meant to restitute normal activities of the society will not be practised habitually. This means that society with moral standards set by the society will be exceptionally high, and a result, the tinniest transgression would constitute rule-breaking, hence a crime/deviant behaviour. In such a society, it becomes difficult to introduce new ideas as well as concepts to prevent it from being left behind. Thus, the changes that take place in the modern society as a result of increasing complexities and division of labour could lead to a state of confusion as regards to the societal norms. Eventually, this may cause normlessness, which is a state of breakdown of the societal norms which generally regulate behaviour in the society.
Illegal narcotic consumption serves various social functions given the numerous implications that it has on an individual and the society. According to Durkheim, crime is a normal and regular fact in the society; it is just inevitable. However, it plays a key role in helping ensure social order in the society. The crime helps develop new ideas and concepts of preventing the illicit use of narcotics in the society. Since it exists in the society and various groups in the society are involved in drug taking, the justice and security department as well as communities have to develop strategies, which can help discourage people especially the younger generation from taking narcotics. It enables the society acknowledge that the crime exists and that it is important to come up with ways that can make members of the society overcome it and conform to the norms of the society. Correction agencies, community organizations and other groups involved in providing probation, counseling and counseling services to those who take or commit crimes under the influence of narcotic drugs, have to develop better corrective measures. Agencies charged with among other things, controlling illegal drug taking can develop strategies for reducing demand as well as restricting supply.
In addition, illegal narcotic consumption helps societies, the government and the law enforcement units define the boundary between normal and abnormal narcotics consumption. It is important to clarify the extent narcotics consumption is considered a crime so as to guide law enforcement. The public have to be fully aware of what is regarded as good and unlawful narcotic consumption. This helps develop conventional standards of behaviour as regards the use of narcotic drugs. The various forms of punishment imposed on those found to have illegally taken narcotic drugs helps reinforce solidarity in the society since it reaffirms moral boundaries as regards to narcotic use among the members of the society. When one is punished for illegally taking drugs, the rest of the society unites to protect the morals of the society and view the act as a deviation from the norms of the society. Individuals usually feel better when people they perceive as deviants or criminals get punished or are made to undergo corrective programs so as to make them law abiding members of the society and to stop them from influencing those perceived to be morally upright in the society.
Drug use in the UK especially the narcotic drugs can be described to be in a normal (average) degree of anomie, that is, it is relatively low. A survey that was conducted by the British Crime Survey across England and Wales in 2007/2008 among 16-24 and 16-59 year olds showed that illegal narcotic drug use is relatively low. The results showed that narcotic drug use among 16-24 year olds was 21.3% while that of 16-59 year olds was 9.3% with the most abused drug being cannabis, cocaine, amyl nitrate and ecstasy (Transform Drug Policy Foundation 2008). According to the Home Office Online Report of 2004/05 crack cocaine and opiate use were about 9.93 per 1000 15-64 year olds (Transform Drug Policy Foundation 2008). The latest report from the Home Office (2011) indicates that illegal drug use as per July 2011 was 8.8% among 16-59 year olds. This translated into about 2.9 million people. However, cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy still remained the most abused drugs. This shows that the degree of normative regulation in England and Wales is high and strict. For example, according to the Home Office, a person found to in possession of cocaine, ecstasy, crack, heroin, amphetamines, as well as LSD can be jailed for at most 7 years. This high level of regulations has been the contributing factor for the relatively low narcotic drug consumption. Again, this relatively low level of narcotic drugs consumption in the UK implies that most people subscribe to the shared norms, beliefs as well as values. The various forms of punishment or retribution adopted by the UK have greatly contributed to ensuring that most members of the society conform to societal norms.
Robert Merton describes adaptation as a way people play social roles in order to adopt in response to structural as well as cultural pressures. Deviant adaptation is therefore is a situation where people discontinue engaging in legitimate cultural or occupational roles regardless of environmental pressures towards non-deviant behaviours. Merton’s typology has four methods of adaptation. These include ritualism, rebellion, retreatism and innovation.
According to Merton, ritualism will occur when an individual fails to attain the goals, and as a result, inwardly surrenders his or her attempts to achieve them (Merton 1965, 138). The person all the same, strictly and publicly obeys the rules to adopt legitimate ways which are socially defined as basic for goal attainment. The individual therefore finds solution to his or her failures as well as frustrations from the rituals. Outwardly, the individual adopts a compulsory conformity to lawful means.
Merton (1965, 138) believes that people may sometimes reject goals and rise up against the social order, and besides, attempt to introduce fresh objective as well as means of into the society. This normally happens as a response to revolutionary groups or those who desire rapid transform in the society.
Merton also says innovation could occur when individual members of the society come across limited access to the use of lawful ways normally adopt anomic. The individual, who is the innovator, rejects the legitimate means of achieving the goals and instead, substitutes criminal means of achieving the goals.
Finally, Merton (1965, 140) suggests that a person who finds himself or herself frustrated and therefore can not attain the goal, may just decide to renounce on conventional goals in addition to legitimate means. This person rejects the means and the goals, and in turn withdraws from the situation.
Merton’s ideas can be interpreted to mean that non-instrumental crimes are committed for a course. His idea of rebellion can be used effectively to describe non-instrumental crimes. Crimes such as vandalism and barricading of roads during protests among other non-instrumental crimes always result from rebellion against the social order. People will always involve in such activities as a way of expressing their discontent or disapproval of a certain social order or a practice in the system. The non-instrumental crime is always a deviant response to unfavourable conventional rule or practice as people struggle to introduce new goals as well as new means of achieving them. Those involved normally act this way out of anger and desire to achieving change in the society. Although their main aim may be to achieve a legitimate end, they resort to an illicit means, which could be vandalism, protests among others, to achieve their goal. Merton called these people innovators. Such people are ready to substitute legitimate means with criminal ways so as to seek a platform to address their grievances or discontent. The society generally accepts to listen to other members who are discounted with norms or practices in the society become destructive. For example, people may sometimes decide to protests in the streets and at the same time involve in vandalism so as to change a political course, which could be protesting against political dictatorship by the government or economic crimes. Thus, such crimes have become necessary in the society as a way of maintaining social order.
These methods of adaptation suggested by Merton can be used to explain illegal narcotic consumption. For example, taking of narcotic drugs such as cannabis, cocaine or heroin interferes with the normal functioning of the brain. An individual who may find himself or herself frustrated in life may be for some reasons, or who meets certain circumstance which he or she finds stressing or difficult to overcome will resort to taking narcotics. As a result, he or she becomes addicted into the drug and adopts a deviant means of responding to the situation. According to Merton’s idea of retreatism, this person will give up the goal all together or even reject both the legitimate means of achieving the goal and the goal itself. Instead, the person may resort to consistent taking narcotic drugs as a way of escaping from the reality and the conventional means of achieving the goal. Such a person may decide to be innovative as is suggested by Merton. He or she deviates from the legitimate means of achieving the goal due to the influence of narcotic drug consumed, but remains focused on the goal. The change of state of the mind gives the person the self-belief in the new ways chosen to achieve the end. Influence of the narcotic drugs will encourage the person to adopt criminal means to attain the goal.
The explanations on illegal narcotics consumption given in task one are correct; although the module has enriched my understanding of what normally leads to narcotics drug consumption. The module also recognizes illegal narcotics consumption as a crime. It is conventionally agreed that consumption of opium and drugs derived from the chemical compositions of opium without a licensed doctor’s prescription or permission from the Home Office, is illegal. However, the module provides more understanding of why people may engage in drugs. Other frustration, boredom and influence from peer groups, one can get involved in the criminal activity (illegal narcotics consumption) so as to achieve his or her short-term or long-term objective. Besides, poor socialisation with the society or the family can also contribute illegal narcotics consumption. Poor relationship with the family, friends or even the peers can lead to frustration and in turn psychological and mental disturbance. This can lead to illegal taking of drugs as the person seeks to escape from frustrations. Again, illegal narcotics consumption could also result from weak social control. This means that low levels of law enforcement in a society could lead to breakdown of norms in the society. This gives individuals in the society loopholes to get the opportunity to take narcotic drugs. Those who take the drug make use of the weak system to obtain the drug.
This module presents some convincing facts about crime. One of them is the functions of crime. The theories presented in the module especially the anomie theory by Durkheim and social strain theory by Merton agree that although crimes have negative consequences, they are still necessary as their impacts may sometimes play important functions. For example, occurrences of crimes or criminal activities like illegal narcotic consumption enables the society achieve boundary setting. It enables the society define what constitutes what is legally right and what is considered moderate or normal. In other words it helps in setting the degree of normative regulation. For example, there are situations of narcotic consumption is considered legal especially when it is prescribed by the doctor. This also means that crimes provide a continuing evaluation of society’s norms. The society adjusts its norms, rules and practices to effectively regulate the behaviour of its members. When the society realizes that the crimes committed by some members of the society have significant impact and were for a course, they review the strategies for dealing with crimes. Punishment helps reinforce social solidarity. This means that penalties which are enforced for every wrongdoing makes the rest of the society conform to the social order and structures of the society. People tend to obey the moral rules and regulations whenever they see those who go against them being punished or made to pay for them.
Although this module presents theories and concepts which can be used to explain crime, the concept of equilibrium presented in the module has some weaknesses. For example, in my opinion, it is not right to argue that deviance is a result of lack of fit between goals and means. This concept is rigid and does not consider other factors which contribute to commission of crimes. Illegal narcotic consumption for example, can be caused by several factors which could include peer pressure. In such a situation, there is no conventional goal to be achieved. This example proves that there are other factors which can contribute to crime which do not involve achieving goals using legitimate means.
Again, the theories presented in the module suggest that crime is a normal response to conditions which limit an individual’s ability to achieve economic success. This assumption does not cover some major crimes which occur in the society. For example, illegal consumption of narcotic drugs may not be aimed at achieving any economical success. There are cases where an individual’s aim for taking narcotic drugs may be to feel “high” or to get escape psychological and mental problems. Those who are involved in gangs may sometimes take the drug to identify themselves with the group. Narcotic drug consumption is more related to subscribing to a subculture. There are many crimes other than narcotic drugs which do not target economic success. There are serious crimes such as suicide or murder which are not related to failure to achieve economic gains. Such examples present clear evidence that not all crimes are committed to overcome barriers which limit the individual’s ability to achieve economic gains. Reasons for committing a crime are varied and can not be generalized to be related to need to achieve economic crimes.
Brown, S. A., D’Amico, E. J., McCarthy, D.M., & Metrik, J., 2004, Alcohol-related services: Prevention, secondary intervention and treatment preferences of adolescents. Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse 14:61–80.
Central Intelligence Agency, 2011, Field listing: Illicit drugs. Web.
Home Office, 2011, Statistical news release: Drug misuse declared: Findings from the 2010/11 British Crime Survey, England and Wales. Web.
International Narcotics Control Board, 2004, List of narcotic drugs under international control, 46th Edition. Web.
Merton, R. K., 1965, Social theory and social structure. New York: Free Press. pp. 132–57.
National Institute on Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism, 2006, Underage drinking: Why do adolescents drink, what are the risks, and how can underage drinking be prevented? Alcohol Alert, 67. Web.
Tierney, J., 2006, Criminology: Theory and context, 2nd Edition. Pearson: Longman. p. 102.
Transform Drug Policy Foundation, 2008, Drug use levels. Web.