According to the article, “The Drugs/Violence Nexus: A Tripartite Conceptual Framework”, author Paul Goldstein argues that there are three ways in which drugs and violence are related. Goldstein’s models for the relationship between drugs and violence are the psychopharmacological model, economic compulsive model, and the systemic violence model. The psychopharmacological model, “suggests that some individuals, as a result of short or long term ingestion of specific substances, may become excitable, irrational, and may exhibit violent behavior” (pg. 278).
In this model, violence occurs due to a withdrawal or the lack of availability of the preferred drug. The economic compulsive model argues that crime occurs due to the necessity to continue a prolonged addiction of a particular dug. Paul Goldstein states that, “Economically compulsive actors are not primarily motivated by impulses to act out violently … rather, their primary motivation is to obtain money to purchase drugs” (pg. 279). The final model regarding systemic violence “refers to the traditionally aggressive patterns of interaction within the system of drug distribution and use” (pg. 280). In this model, individuals within the system or hierarchy are prone to violence in the form of disputes, robberies, and punishments due to the illegality of the drug.
In my own opinion, I see drug violence occurring due to the simple processes of an industry or market. Due to the fact that drugs are illegal and in such high demand, the market itself works to create tension and violence. I agree with Goldstein and his economic compulsive model, but argue that the prices and availability are so high due to such a large demand of illegal substances. Without the demand, prices would drop, availability would rise, and the amount of violence would be reduced as well.
There are many costs related to the close relationship between drugs and violence. For one, the drug consumption and distribution from gangs is becoming more violent and increasingly prevalent. Due the illegality and potential profit, gangs became systemically involved in the distribution of drugs and the violence that comes along with it (pg. 267). Within the system of drug distribution, gangs have both financial and personnel costs.
The financial costs arise from competition and all the resources used to gain the upper hand. The personnel costs mainly come about due to gang wars and the enforcement of the law. One final cost comes at the expense of the community, where neighborhoods involved with drug distribution are more likely to be surrounded by illicit activities and violence. According to Paul Goldstein, “Previous research indicates that the most common victims of this form of drug related violence are people residing in the same neighborhoods as the offender” (pg. 279).
As I stated before, there many reasons responsible for the violence and crime associated with drugs. The first and most obvious is the fact that drug use and the distribution of drugs are illegal. The second aspect of violence comes from the prohibition and interest groups that continue to inflict harsh penalties on drug use. The third and final reason is that both drugs and crime share common causes (O’Brien Lecture). This final reason is the most important because it points to the fact that the U.S has turned into a drug culture, not for one particular reason, but rather the relationship between drugs and violence.
Although drugs and violence have been increasingly prevalent in U.S society lately, there are a few solutions or steps we can take to reduce the amount. In a perfect world, I would suggest a reduced role of politico-moral entrepreneurs in order to lessen the prohibition measures, which create so much of the tension. But unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world, so instead I suggest changing the drug laws to reduce the amount of trafficking and availability of the drug. Once again, with less restrictions and more availability the gangs and drug lords would have much less of a demand; and thus less violence.
According to the article, “The Social Construction of Drug Scares”, author Craig Reinarman states that there are three main elements to a drug scare. They are the kernel of truth, media magnification, and politico-moral entrepreneurs (pg. 43). A kernel of truth refers to the fact that, “in virtually all cultures and historical epochs, there has been sufficient ingestion of consciousness-altering chemicals” (pg. 43). That is, the kernel of truth looks at the big picture and views drug use as a natural occurrence through out history. Media magnification argues that, “The media dramatize drug problems, as they do other problems, in the course of their routine news-generating and sales-promoting procedures” (pg. 43).
This points to how the mass media takes small cases of re-occurring drug use and turns it into an ‘epidemic’ or drug scare. The media thus acts as a promoter for the inflation of the kernel of truth and how it should be interpreted. The final element to a drug scare are the politico-moral entrepreneurs, who’s personal interests outweigh societies’ when it comes to the regulation of drugs. According to Craig Reinarman, “political elites typically find [that] drugs … allow them to deflect attention from other more systematic sources of public problems” (pg. 44). In this case, politico-moral entrepreneurs have the power to alter the thought process of an entire culture in relation to drugs (ex. Ronald Regan).
When it comes to the public reaction of drug scares, the mass media and politico-moral entrepreneurs are the most influential (pg. 45). They shape the public ideals and beliefs about drugs, as well as, advocate towards a temperance culture. The media tries to present conscious-altering chemicals as a ‘loss of self-self control’. Because the U.S. developed from a temperance culture, “self-control was both central to religious world views and a characterological necessity for economic survival and success in the capitalist market” (pg. 45). Thus, the general public essentially responds to drug scares however the media portrays it to be.
A good example of the media’s bias and influential impact on drug scares can be seen in the case of salvia divinorium in the United States. Although many medical researchers believe that salvia can be used as a medicinal substance, the government is in the process of banning the drug for all social/recreational use (O’Brien Lecture). In this case, the media’s magnification of salvia as a drug scare has led to an ‘all or nothing’ attitude regarding the drug. Instead of regulating and suppressing the negative attributes of the drug, we have been led to believe that the drug is pure evil (O’Brien Lecture). In order to reduce the frequency of drug scares in our culture, we must first reduce the factual/selection bias of the mass media.