Home > Social exclusion – a holistic approach to understanding adolescent drug use.

McCrystal, Patrick (2004) Social exclusion – a holistic approach to understanding adolescent drug use. Radical Statistics, (85), pp. 1-17. ISSN: 0268 6376.

External website: http://www.radstats.org.uk/no085/index.htm

Illicit drug use, for many years part of the social agenda of many countries, is now firmly on the political agenda as never before (Plant and Plant, 1999). This has resulted from the significant rise in the levels of drug use and the problems associated with this behaviour. Illicit drug use among young people has risen steadily over the past 30 years in the UK and beyond (Miller and Plant, 2001). Illegal drugs now account for 8 per cent of global trade and represents the third largest industry in the world after oil and arms. Young (2002) estimates the illicit drug trade has an annual turnover of 100 billion dollars, making it the world’s largest rogue industry against which few effective levers or sanctions exist.

Trends in illicit drug use have changed in recent years as the number of people using drugs rose steadily throughout the twentieth century particularly amongst young people in the last two decades (Measham et al, 1998; Hibbell et al, 1997). The literature has traditionally focused upon the cause of drug use behaviour from the perspective of the individual, examining factors such as: family life, school life, friendship networks and the areas in which they live. This paper looks beyond these individual factors through an examination of the value of the social exclusion discourse which offers a more holistic approach to our understanding of adolescent drug use behaviours. Such an approach provides the opportunity to understand adolescent drug use from a perspective that presents a more all-encompassing view of the lives of drug-using young people. In doing so, it also provides insights for the design and development of drug prevention programmes.

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