Sociological Imagination

Throughout this essay the sociological imagination is used to analyse the historical, cultural and structural reasons for drug use and abuse. Within this parameter the sociological imagination is applied, using studies research conducted in the United Kingdom, Australia, Russia and the United States. The sociological imagination was defined by Charles Write Mills as a ‘quality of mind’. (Mills quoted by Germov, Poole 2007: 4 ) It is stimulated by an awareness to view the social world by looking at how one’s own personal problems and experiences form a relationship to the wider society.

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In Victorian society the majority of people believed there was no ‘drug problem. ‘ (Berridge, 1999) The substances used in Britain at the time like opium based cough medicine was commonly accepted in daily life. Sometimes opiates were taken for enjoyment, what we now class as ‘recreational’ drug use. During this era there was no obvious difference between society’s use of drugs for medicinal or pleasurable purposes. Much of peoples’ drug use was used to escape the drudgery of Victorian working class life. However, society was troubled by the amount of alcohol that was being consumed. Berridge, 1999) When the British settled in Australia, of which the majority were male, drinking was a stand out aspect of colonial life. ( Room, 2010: 151-152) In the late eighteenth century alcohol consumption had halved due to the growing presence of women and children, and later the depression. After the first world war consumption steadily increased until it peaked in the late 1970s, partly because of a new wave of female drinkers. Australia’s drinking culture in the early twenty-first century was heavily influenced by class. As was depicted by Horne about working class life. Pictured as happy go lucky, Hard drinking, hard gambling, Matey, thumbing its nose at The sissies and snobs in the Lower middle class suburbs. ” (Horne quoted by Room, 2010: 152) By the 1960s, governments were planning to introduce regulations to gain votes and minimise problem drinking. From the government and media’s point of view, on one hand, there were alcoholics and on the other ‘social drinkers’ A law was brought in that enforced hotels and pubs to close by 6pm. This became a paradigm for arguments on alcoholism treatment and for weakening laws.

The problem was not alcohol as a product but a ‘personal issue’. (Room, 2010: 151-163) Analysing current trends for drug use and abuse around the world can show structural inequalities and cultural values that help determine what drugs are available and how people start to abuse illegal substances. An ethnographic study conducted in the Northern Russian City of Vorkytan, centred around the role of social networks and social capital amongst young peoples’ drug use, confirms this idea. ( Pilkington. H, Shamfullina.

E 2009: 251-260) The risk environment of Vorkytan coincides with deindustrialisation, low life expectancy, limited socioeconomic opportunities and poor health conditions. It is also characterised by a “work hard, play hard” attitude. Although the majority of Vorkytan’s youth are not addicted to drugs, the use of controlled substances is an essential part of their communication and the vast majority consume drugs in their immediate friendship groups. Friendship groups mediate how drugs are engaged and what is considered to be acceptable or unacceptable drug use amongst peers.

Yet the young person is not fully able to understand the consequences of their high risk behaviour during sensitive stages of their development. By looking at the way in which youth obtain their information and make their choices, the sociological gaze can give insight into how structures can create drug advice and drug prevention literature that is relevant to it’s society. Present day tendencies can also be evaluated by analysing a study of people who inject drugs in Sydney, Australia.

The research showed that the majority of surveyed participants conducted their usage in close friendship groups. A small percentage of the participants had contracted injecting relating diseases such as hepatitis c. Those with the disease stated they were drug dependent and have consequently been excluded from social circles and now regularly inject in shooting galleries. ( Paquette, Bryant, De Whit, 2011: 267-273) Exposure to controlled substances through media platforms such as music, television and movies can warp young peoples ideas.

Worldwide governments have removed the advertising rights of tobacco companies and limited alcohol promotion. The depiction of drugs is more prevalent now than it was in the 1950s (Rich 2008: 88-90). The subject matter of teenage movies, such as ‘American Pie,’ found that substance use is more predominant in teenage fiction than in real life. Studies conducted on music television, shown during prime time adolescent viewing hours in 1994 found that rap videos frequently portrayed alcohol and tobacco usage in their content more than any other genre in music (Du Rant, Rome, et al. 1997 quoted by Rich, 2008: 88-90) The frequency in which teenagers observe this behaviour can reinforce their desire to dabble in illegal substances. It can been seen that by using the sociological imagination to conduct research into why and how people consume illegal substances, by analysing trends; can benefit societies and improve drug awareness by implementing new policies and programs to minimise the effects drug abuse has on world structures and it’s people. References Berridge,V. (1999) Opium and the people, revised edition.

London, Free Association. Germov, j. , Poole, M “ The Sociological gaze: Linking private lives to public issues’ Public Sociology An Introduction to Australian Society second edition, Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest. Paquette, M. D, Bryant, J. , Whit De, J (2011) ‘Use of respondent-driven sampling to enhance understanding of injecting networks; A study of people who inject drugs in Sydney, Australia’ The International Journal of drug policy, volume 22, issue 4, 267-273. Pilkington, H. , Shamfullina, E. 2009) ‘ The mutual extraction industry; Drug use and the normative structure of social capital in the Russian far north’ The International Journal of drug policy’ volume 20, issue 3, 251-260. Room, R (2010) ‘The Long reaction against the wowser: The pre history of alcohol deregulation in Australia’ International Journal of Health Sociology: policy, promotion, equity and practice, volume 19, issue 2, 151-163. Wilson, H . , Bryant, J. Holt, M, Treloar . C (2010) ‘ Normalisation of recreational drug use among young people’ International Journal of Health Sociology volume 19, issue 2, 164-175.


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