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Is Drug Dependency Socially Or Biologically Generated? Critically Evaluate Theoretical Perspectives And Support Your Answer With Empirical Evidence

1995 words - 8 pages

Is drug dependency socially or biologically generated? Critically evaluate theoretical perspectives and support your answer with empirical evidence.

In this essay I will be discussing whether drug dependency is purely socially or biologically generated or whether it is actually multi-factorial. I will demonstrate this by first reviewing the theoretical perspectives for the social argument and the evidence supporting these. I will then review the biological theories and the supporting research. I will conclude by discussing the multi-factorial approach to drug dependency and also the difficulties which arise from this debate.

Extrapersonal factors have been argued to be the cause of ...view middle of the document...

A limitation of this approach is that it is unable to explain why adolescents who succeed at school and academia go on to use drugs, or those who don’t do well and truant, do not. As well as this, many studies into this area, such as Flannery et al (1994) use adolescents self-report measures to gain their data. This can be unreliable as the adolescents may be unwilling to admit they take, or have ever taken drugs, and may alter their answers to fit with the social norms. Therefore it cannot be a full explanation of the generation of drug dependency.

Another social theoretical perspective in support of the social approach is Bandura's Social Learning Theory. This theory suggests that people use drugs as a result of vicarious learning, whereby they learn the behaviour from ‘role models’ such as peers and celebrities. Bandura’s theory can be seen to be influential to Government policy. For example, in the Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England (2004), it was stated that the alcohol industry must not use advertising or manufacture products which would appeal to young people, or promote excessive drinking. This supports the social learning theory, as the Government is expressing that young people can learn and imitate behaviour from adverts to start drinking alcohol. By banning the use of this type of advertising, it can be argued that they are trying to eliminate the possibility for young people to learn from this. Research has also taken place which supports the social learning theory of drug dependency. Akers (1996) conducted a longitudinal study into adolescent smoking, and found that “only the variables measuring social learning theory have significant effect on adolescents smoking behaviour”. (p.319). However, there are some issues with this theory which suggests that it cannot fully explain drug dependency. One such problem is that the theory ignores any biological factors which may have contributed. Furthermore, the theory fails to explain the occurrence of drug dependency when an individual has not been in an environment in which vicarious learning of drug use has taken place. For example, an individual may not have any family members or peers who use drugs, or have access to media, such as in a deprived area, but still uses drugs. The social learning theory is limited to explaining how the previous example of drug abuse would have occurred.

On the other hand, it has been argued that drug dependency is biologically generated. One such theoretical perspective is that there is a genetic heritability to drug abuse. It is suggested that genetics can account for both predispositions to certain drugs and may also indirectly influence other factors such as an individual’s personality and temperament. Research into this area tends to be based on adoption studies of twins. Grove et al (1989) interviewed monozygotic twins reared apart and found that the drug scale used for analyses showed a significant level of heritability. Furthermore,...

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