Understanding Drugs, Alcohol and Crime

By Trevor Bennett; Katy Holloway | Go to book overview

chapter two
Policy context: from defining to
reducing harm

Introduction

When drug use was not a problem

The medicalization of drug use

The criminalization of drug use

The prevention of drug use

Variations across countries

Conclusion

Further reading


Introduction

This chapter looks at the process by which drug use became defined as a problem. It begins by looking at drug use before it was thought of as deviant or harmful. It then looks at the process by which drug use became defined first as a medical problem and later as a criminal problem. It reports on more recent perceptions of drug misuse and the attempts of governments to control it. The final section compares government policies across countries and identifies differences in approaches to tackling drug misuse.


When drug use was not a problem

It is only in recent years that drug use has been defined as a social problem. Previously, drugs had been used in many countries over many centuries for self-medication, religious experience, creative inspiration and recreation with little or no moral condemnation and few social controls. The first systematic account of the medicinal properties of cannabis appeared in China nearly 5000 years ago. Chewing coca leaves for strength and energy has been common practice in South America for several thousand years.

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