Critically discuss what Howard Parker et al (1998) mean by the normalisation of recreational drug use. How convinced are you by this explanation of the contemporary drug situation?
This essay is going to look at Howard Parker et al’s (1998) theory of ‘normalisation’ and critically evaluate whether or not it still relevant in contemporary society. The essay will begin by explaining the theory in relation to how and where it developed from. The essay will move on to focus on specific aspects such as globalisation and how certain issues have affected the ‘normalisation’ of recreational drug use. The focus will then move onto describing the seven dimensions of ‘normalisation’ that Howard et al (1998) developed; drug availability, drug trying, drug use, being drug wise, future intentions, cultural accommodation of the illicit and risk taking as a life skill. These seven factors will be assessed and evaluated. From here the direction will change, as the essay focuses on the work of Shiner and Newburn (1998), offering a critical analysis of the ‘normalisation’ thesis. By the end of this essay the aim is to have evaluated Howard et al’s work and concluded with whether or not the ‘normalisation’ thesis is applicable in contemporary society. The ‘Normalisation’ theory emerged from Parker et al in the 1990s. Two explanations that existed prior to the introduction of the ‘normalisation’ theory were the ‘Individualistic’ and ‘Sociological’ explanations (Barton, 2003). The Individualist perspective placed the individual adolescent at the centre of the phenomenon and focused on a psychoanalytical theory; whereas the Sociological explanation (also referred to as sub-cultural theory) focused more upon external factors such as socialisation and roles (Barton, 2003). These traditional ideas however were eroded through the development of Normalisation and the term became popular when referring to ‘recreational rather than problematic drug use’ (Blackman, 2004:127). With reference to this, the theory is specific in that it only refers to certain drugs and not all. These drugs tend to be those that are viewed as and used in a ‘recreational’ manor, for example some of the drugs included are; Cannabis, amphetamines and also hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD and ecstasy. Heroin and Cocaine are not included as these tend to be seen as drugs used for dependency and addiction purposes rather than recreational (Blackman, 2004). The theory offered a ‘conceptual framework to monitor, in this case, how attitudes and behaviour in respect of illegal drugs and drug users change through time’ (Parker, 2005:206). At the time it was a new and exciting way of viewing drug use; looking at society as a whole and placing drug use ‘within the realm of cultural norms as a social practice’ (Blackman, 2004:138); rather than focusing on the individual adolescent or ‘deviant’ youth cultures. The theory focuses upon the idea that ‘drug use has become more conventional and integrated into certain peoples lives’ (Blackman, 2004:138). Contemporary developments such as globalisation have aided the development of the ‘Normalisation’ thesis. Parker (2005) states that: Illicit drugs consumption, particularly by conventional ‘ordinary’ young people, has grown in importance within lifestyles which are themselves evolving in response to structural and global changes in post-modern societies (Parker, 2005:206). Children, more so teenagers are beginning to experience different things through adolescence than previous generations. Central to these changes are marketing and consumerism; creating a clear link between youth cultures and drug cultures (South, 1999). These links are created through ‘the mass consumption of products such as songs, music, videos, t-shirts, clothes, logos, jackets, badges and posters’ (Blackman, 1996, cited in south, 1999:7). To try and understand some of the changes that have occurred to aid the process of ‘normalisation’ Parker (1998) has suggested...
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