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Criminological Theories of Drug Use Essay

The three categories of criminological theory used to explain drug use

The three broad criminological theories for drug use include biological, sociological, and psychological theories (Akers, 2013). Biological theories argue that certain individuals are susceptible to drug use and addiction due to genetic reasons. According to biological theories, such individuals have a higher likelihood of experiencing extremely powerful effects and, consequently, become psychologically and physiologically dependent on certain drugs.

Psychological theories, on the other hand, argue that drug addiction is caused by certain personality traits and problems. The theories hypothesize that drug users possess personality traits that influence them to use drugs (DiClemente, 2017). The traits include low trust in others, low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and a need for stimulation and thrills. Psychological explanations hence contend that drug users possess personality defects that make them vulnerable to drug use.

According to sociological theories, drug use is linked to numerous facets of the social setting, such as weak social bonds, drug culture, and peer influences. Sociological theories stress the significance of several facets of the social environment, such as social interaction, social structure, and social bonds to school and family (Wise & Koob, 2014). For instance, for drugs that are commonly used in large urban areas, such as heroin, social inequality, a form of social structure, seems to be the major influence. Overall, sociological theories provide the best prospect for developing drug policy for treating and preventing drug use since most drug use largely stems from the social environment and is hence a social problem rather than an individual problem.

4. One sociological theory for drug use and could be used to understand and prevent drug use

Functionalism theory, a form of sociological theory, can help in the understanding and prevention of drug use. The theory stresses the importance of social stability as well as the roles played by various facets of society, for the well-being of society (Nutt et al., 2015). The theory also emphasizes the threats and dysfunctions that certain aspects of society pose to the well-being of society. Consistent with functionalism theory, sociologists argue that drug use is useful to numerous members of society (McShane, 2013). Individuals using drugs consider drug use as useful as it gives them different constructive physiological effects (Akers, 2013). Those selling drugs consider drug use as purposeful as it acts as a key source of income.

What is more, the use of illegal drugs is useful for the criminal justice and judicial system since it offers job opportunities for the police department, prison workers, and judicial personnel who handle cases of illegal drugs (Nutt et al., 2015). Additionally, illegal and legal drugs create job opportunities for social service organizations as well as other establishments and individuals who help individuals addicted to drugs (Kardefelt‐Winther, 2017). While we acknowledge the various functions of drugs, it is important to note that both illegal and legal drugs have several dysfunctions for society (McShane, 2013). It is these dysfunctions that functionalism theory uses to justify the prevention of drug use and advocates for prevention methods such as dealing with peer pressure, educating people on the negative effects of drugs, and keeping a well-balanced life.


Akers, R. L. (2013). Criminological theories: Introduction and evaluation. Routledge.

DiClemente, C. C. (2017). Addiction and change: How addictions develop and addicted people recover. Guilford Publications.

Kardefelt‐Winther, D., Heeren, A., Schimmenti, A., Rooij, A., Maurage, P., Carras, M., … & Billieux, J. (2017). How can we conceptualize behavioural addiction without pathologizing common behaviours?. Addiction, 112(10), 1709-1715.

McShane, M. (Ed.). (2013). An Introduction to Criminological Theory. Routledge.

Nutt, D. J., Lingford-Hughes, A., Erritzoe, D., & Stokes, P. R. (2015). The dopamine theory of addiction: 40 years of highs and lows. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16(5), 305.

Wise, R. A., & Koob, G. F. (2014). The development and maintenance of drug addiction. Neuropsychopharmacology, 39(2), 254.



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