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A social problem is something in society that concerns people to the point they would like to change it, social problems are relative and dynamic. Using drugs in such a way that they harm one’s health, impair one’s physical or mental functioning, or interfere with one’s social life which is defined as abuse, what is considered drug abuse depends on social norms relative to culture or group. Drug addiction is defined as a chronic disorder of compulsive drug seeking that is continued despite the harmful consequences and long-lasting changes to the brain. It is considered as both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness, addiction itself is the most severe form on the spectrum of substance use. Drug addiction is a significant health issue because it has a major impact on individuals, their families, and communities, the effects of the addiction are cumulative and significantly contribute to costly social, physical, mental, and public health problems such as teenage pregnancy; HIVAIDS and other STD; domestic violence; child abuse; crime and suicide (‘Understanding Drug Use and Addiction Drug Facts | National Institute on Drug Abuse’, 2018).

The focus of this essay will be on South African youth drug users, drug users are becoming younger and younger, and the average age of drug addiction is 12 years old and younger and decreasing. South Africa also ranks among the top ten countries with drug abusers worldwide making this a growing problem that needs an intervention. This health issue is appropriate for analysis from a sociological perspective because addiction has negative behavioral and health outcomes, social attitudes, and responses to the consumption of drugs making this issue one of the most complex public health issues. In addition to the considerable health implications, drug addiction has become a focal point in discussions about social values: some people argue over whether substance abuse is a disease with genetic and biological foundations or just a matter of personal choice. Sociological explanations highlight the importance of certain parts of society such as social structure, social bonds, family ties, school ties, and social interaction that may result in drug abuse. The three theoretical views focused on here are the Conflict theorist perspective, Symbolic interactionism, and structural functionalist theory perspective.

Description of the issue

Understanding drug addiction is the main key to solving the problem, many people do not understand why or how some people become addicted to drugs they often think that those who use drugs lack moral principles and have the willpower to stop their drug use simply by choosing to but in reality, drug addiction is a complex health issue and just quitting usually takes more than good intentions or strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard even for those who want to (‘Understanding Drug Use and Addiction Drug Facts | National Institute on Drug Abuse’, 2018).

Nature of drug addiction

An article in Parent24 stated “80% of South African male youth deaths are alcohol-related and drug consumption is twice the world norm” (Parker, 2018), drug addiction in South Africa has been an ever-growing problem in our country, the national statistics state that 15% of South Africans have addiction problems of which 60% of crimes nationally are related to substance abuse and drug abuse is costing South Africa R20 billion each year(‘The Staggering Stats of Addiction in South Africa’, 2017). Addiction amongst teenagers shows that 1 in 2 children in the average South African home are addicted to drugs or alcohol or turn the risk of becoming, by the age of 18 more than 60% of teenagers have become drunk half of which used school time or work time to drink (Parker, 2018). School kids who either use alcohol or drugs are 3 times more involved with violent crimes, studies show that the average age of drug dependency in South Africa is 12 years old and dropping with a News24 article stating that the youngest drug dealer was an 8-year-old boy (Gwala, 2021). Drug addiction continues to rise drastically with a variety of drugs widely available and the increase of people who have fallen victim to addiction (Ndaba, 2007).

Over R3,5 billion is spent annually by South Africans to purchase cannabis(dagga), 110,000 people use ecstasy and pay approximately R610 million in one year, Tik(methamphetamine) is the main drug of choice for 42% of Cape Town users. Nyaope a mixture of dagga and heroin is causing inestimable damage among Tshwane’s township youth and South Africa is the largest user of mandrax(methaqualone) in the world (‘The Staggering Stats of Addiction in South Africa’, 2017).

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Implications of drug addiction

The determinants of drug addiction range from many factors such as biological, social, environmental, and psychological:

A family’s beliefs and attitudes and exposure to a peer group that encourages drug use play a role in initial drug use. When a person starts using drugs, the development into addiction may be influenced by inherited (genetics) traits which may delay or speed up the disease progression (‘Drug addiction (substance use disorder) – Symptoms and causes’, 2017). Drug addiction is more common in some families and may involve genetic predisposition, for example, if you have a blood relative with a drug or alcohol addiction you are at a greater risk of developing a drug or alcohol addiction later on in life. In youths, peer influence is the strongest factor in those who start using and misuse drugs. In those with mental health disorders such as depression, using drugs can become a way of coping with painful feelings such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness can make these problems even worse. Using drugs at an early age can cause changes in the developing brain and increase the likelihood of progressing to drug addiction (‘Drug addiction (substance use disorder) – Symptoms and causes’, 2017).

Drug abuse is a problem that involves communities as much as it does the individual, addiction can increase family stress, crime, and significant health problems. Treatment programs designed to reduce the negative effects of drug addiction within a community are costly to implement and are not always effective. Family stress and marital stress place the children of users at a greater risk of emotional problems, physical problems, and learning difficulties. Parents who abuse drugs or alcohol tend to neglect their children leaving them to their own devices because they are preoccupied with their addictions, they fail to provide the proper guidance that children need especially during their growing years (‘1 in 10 in SA has addiction problem | Health24’, 2013). Crime and drugs are interrelated, to support expensive drug habits users sometimes engage in crimes such as robbery, and prostitution, drug abuse exposes users to a variety of health risks including pregnancy complications, brain damage, and even death from overdosing and these illnesses can be expensive for society to cure (‘1 in 10 in SA has addiction problem | Health24’, 2013).

Sociological perspective

Sociological explanations look at certain aspects of the social environment such as social structure, social bonds to family and school, social interactions, and culture on drug use. Social bonds to families also make a difference as adolescents with weaker bonds are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior and use drugs than those with stronger bonds, sociologists emphasize that peer pressure greatly influences a person’s chance of using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, most drug use begins during adolescence because at this stage people are experimenting with drinking, smoking or using other drugs and many want to fit in with the crowd and may use one of these drugs(‘7.4 Explaining Drug Use | Social Problems’, n.d.).

Societies with a “drug culture” matter when understanding drug addiction for example, if we have a culture that favors alcohol many people will drink alcohol, and this is especially true with South African society with recent alcohol bans during the COVID-19 pandemic and because there is a drug culture, in general, it is no surprise that drug use of many types is so common. Another perspective is that many make the mistake of viewing drug use as something from an individual’s biological or psychological problems but other factors such as social inequality, social interaction, and drug culture matter for drug addiction. These problems do play a role in some individuals’ drug use but drug use as a whole stems from a larger degree from the social environment and needs to be understood as a social problem and not an individual one.

#heathcare #medical #medicalcare #pharmaceuticals #healthcareprofessional #nurses #healthprofessionals

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