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Subcultural Aspects of Drug Use. Lecture 6. What to Expect in this Lecture. What are Subcultures? Formation of Drug Subcultures Characteristics of Drug Subcultures Closeup of Street-Heroin Subculture Careers in Drug Use. What are Subcultures?.

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what to expect in this lecture
What to Expect in this Lecture
  • What are Subcultures?
  • Formation of Drug Subcultures
  • Characteristics of Drug Subcultures
  • Closeup of Street-Heroin Subculture
  • Careers in Drug Use
what are subcultures
What are Subcultures?
  • Most generally, we can say that subcultures are “cultures within cultures”
    • They are part of the larger culture, but they are also set apart and distinct
  • Deviant subcultures are organized around behavior patterns which are in conflict with dominant cultural norms and values
  • General characteristics of subcultures
    • Boundary Maintenance Mechanisms
    • Distinctive Norms
    • Specialized Knowledge
    • Distinctive Social Organization


Dominant Culture

formation of drug using subcultures
Formation of Drug-Using Subcultures
  • Generally found where drugs are illegal or strongly disapproved
    • Historically, emerged prominently after the Harrison Narcotics Act and other prohibition measures
  • Albert Cohen suggests that subcultures emerge where there are a number of people who share a common “problem”
    • Wherever drugs are made illegal, certain problems are posed:
      • How to obtain drugs
      • How to obtain money to buy drugs
      • How to avoid arrest
      • How to avoid potential health risks
    • Users join together to solve the common problems they encounter
characteristics of drug subcultures
Characteristics of Drug Subcultures
  • Erich Goode identifies the following characteristics:
    • Use normally occurs in a group setting
    • Others with whom one uses are usually intimates of long-standing association
    • Value consensus
    • Value convergence
    • Group cohesion around drug use and related activities
    • Self-identification based on drug using activity
case study the street heroin subculture
Case Study: The Street Heroin Subculture
  • Began to emerge in the 1920’s following the Harrison Act
  • Primarily found in urban centers
  • Can be described with respect to 4 broad dimensions:
    • Boundary maintenance mechanisms
    • Distinctive norms
    • Specialized knowledge and skills
    • Distinctive social organization
careers in drug use
Careers in Drug Use
  • We might define a career as “…a series of meaningfully related statuses, roles, and activities around which an individual organizes some aspect of his or her life” (Faupel, 1991, p. 24)
  • Three attributes of careers in this definition:
    • Careers have a temporal quality
    • Activities of careers are an organizing framework for one’s biography
    • Careers have a subjective component that provides a basis for individual identity