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Globally, illicit drugs and illegal use of pharmaceuticals have been blamed for the cause of rising crime rates, unemployment, depression and domestic violence experienced by countries. Through much medical research it is evident that drug use causes detrimental affects to an addicts lifestyle, behaviour and health and for that reason it easily becomes a scapegoat for wider social issues and conflicts in diverse racial and religious groups across the world.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2011) states alcohol is one of the most widely used psychoactive drugs worldwide. Classified as a depressant drug, alcohol causes activity in the central nervous system to be slowed. Coordination and concentration are affected and response to unexpected situations and reflexes are also slowed. Alcohol is liquid produced by fermentation and even though alcohol is legal, it is a very powerful and addictive drug that can cause devastating impacts similar to illicit drugs.
Since European invasion, alcohol has become part of Australia's culture and way of life, became the most widely used social drug in Australia. Over time, the types of alcoholic beverages diversified and continual excessive consumption patterns led to Australia's reputation as the 'heavy drinking nation'. High levels of this particular social drug abuse by Australians has led to greater incidences of death, accidents and alcohol related diseases.
In the early days of settlement, Aborigines had little difficulty obtaining liquor. Aborigines were provided with alcohol so that Europeans could be amused by their drunken antics. Alcohol was a form of payment by employers and observers began to take notice that aboriginals from white recreational drinking were forming an excessive cultural norm.
South Australia, 1967, Protector of Aborigines declared that an Aboriginal drinking problem existed (Brady, 1990) and soon after Aboriginal and mixed descents were prohibited from alcohol across Australia.
The consequences of alcohol prohibition for Indigenous people brought upon questions of rights and ethics. By 1939, government policy had shifted which carried with it ideas of equality and the aim of gradually removing protective laws, which was seen throughout the 1960s across Australia. (Brady, 1990)
Programs have now been implemented to educate people on the harms of binge drinking. Positive programs have been seen in aboriginal communities, which attempt to modify and reduce the amounts of alcohol consumed.
Symptoms of disempowerment due to land, language and dislocation from culture arise due to problems of poverty and inequality associated with illicit drug use. Scapegoating and mainstream stereotyping have further contributed to these problems.
Prohibiting alcohol has created similar problems to those created by prohibition of illicit drugs in differing communities. Cultural specific and harm reduction programs are conducted and controlled by these communities themselves, which are shown to have positive outcomes and greater chance of success.
Obtained from the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa, marijuana is a dry shredded mix of flowers and seed that contains a chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Better known asÂ THC, the chemical is psychoactive and is the main ingredient that contributes to making marijuana illegal among most countries of the world.
Marijuana was once legal in the United States, but since the 1970s has been prohibited and possibly the most notorious example of an illicit drug becoming a scapegoat.
Throughout the early to mid 1990s, marijuana became a scapegoat for social and cultural problems including of poverty, racism, and discrimination of classes among American society.
What had once been regarded as a "killer weed" became seen as a 'drop out drug' (Himmelstein, 1983) Despite the considerable contrast in thought concerning marijuana, the change has rarely been noticed nor studied. Nevertheless, the major shift in the framing of the drug remains significant, as was a shift that was symptomatic of other important social changes of the time.
Minority groups that were subjects of racial prejudice included Mexican farm labourers, Filipino immigrants and blacks from the southern states and were the main users of marijuana at the start of the 20th century.
Racist politicians at the time targeted the Mexicans' use of marijuana by calling them 'un-American' and spreading myths that the use of marijuana caused insanity violence and crime. Despite lack of evidence of increase incidence in violence, the American consul wrote that marijuana 'causes the smoker to become exceedingly pugnacious and to run amuck without discrimination' (Bonnie, 1974). 'Marijuana Menace' and 'Killer Weed' headlines further encouraged and publicized these myths in society.
Himmelstein (1938) argued that the Killer Weed image got created out of racial views that were held in society. Mexican labourers and other lower strata groups were original perceived users of marijuana and therefore the idea of violent and enraged behaviour was closely associated with drug use.
Marijuana prohibition was first seen in highly populated migrant worker states across Mexico. From these actions "marijuana had become the scapegoat for the troubles of racism, discrimination and poverty" (Abel, 1980). This idea continued until the 1960s where the user group changed to middle class youth.
In the 1960s, marijuana had this time become the scapegoat for a social and cultural problem between generations. During this time, the claim of marijuana as a "Killer Weed" was replaced by the opposite line entirely as "Drop out drug" and in 1965 time magazine published an article saying that marijuana 'now affects users judgments and if used daily will dull a students initiative.' The contrasting representation of marijuana came about when many young people rebelled against the lifestyle of their parents, wearing different clothes, turning to different religions and listening to outrageous music. 'Drop out drug' represented laziness and unmotivational behaviours. Youth's rejection of authority was noticed, especially during the war with North Vietnam. Growing anti-war movements and lack of recruitments led to mounting conflict with government authorities, and FBI often arrested protest activists and leaders on marijuana charges.
The shift from 'Killer Weed' to 'Drop-out-drug' involved a change not only regarding dangers of marijuana use but more specifically the groups of society who participate in this use. (Himmelstein, 1938) Therefore this scapegoat entails the underlying public assumptions of marijuana.
Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug that slows brain and central nervous system functioning. Established from the opioid class of drugs, it is made from the sap of opium poppy and intake effectively creates feelings of wellbeing and pain relief.
Since 1980 an epidemic of heroin usage has developed in Dublin, the Republic of Ireland and has remained a problem to this day. Unemployment, public health problems, violent crime and urban decay had all become emblematically associated with heroin. Those responsible for petty crime are most commonly addicts who are involved in muggings; prostitution and house robbery's to fund their drug addiction. Dublin however experienced greater incidents of violent crimes, murders, when heroin criminal gangs moved in to control the drug trade. Although a lot of crime was between gangs, many innocent people were caught in the crossfire and became victims to drug crime.
From a health and medical perspective, heroin related deaths have considerably increased over the last 30 years as well as a large increase of deaths from diseases such as "AIDS and hepatitis caused by sharing needles." (Kelleher, 2003)
Individuals who experienced poverty during the eighties and nineties often turned to heroin, and as they spent more money on heroin the areas they lived in became even more dirty and miserable. (McCann, 2007) These living conditions established the idea that a relationship between heroin and poverty existed and that heroin use is closely linked to causing the city's problems of crime, public health, massive unemployment and run down housing. However, extreme poverty is the real problem affecting most heroin users in Ireland.
Heroin addicts are the victims of this poverty and the use of the drug should not become the scapegoat for the problem. Since the early 1900s poverty has existed in Dublin, and remained as a serious problem in society and although heroin may be a factor that pushes people further into poverty, it isn't the original cause of poverty in Ireland.
Throughout human history, drugs have been in use among all cultures of the world, each of which have been incorporated in diverse behaviours.
World wide, both legal and illicit drugs have easily become scapegoats for wider social issues and conflicts, evident still today in Australia, United States and Ireland. Although medical science and studies have proven other factors contribute to the main societal concerns of inequality and poverty, drugs are an easy fault. Although these scapegoats have diminished overtime, they are still a believed cause for world problems. While drugs do contribute to the worsening of these issues, the problems will not be solved until the real causes are identified and accepted.