SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND SLOW-MOTION DISASTERS: The Case of Detroit

Authors

  • Paul J. Draus

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    1. The University of Michigan-Dearborn
      *Paul J. Draus, Department of Behavioral Sciences, The University of Michigan-Dearborn, 4902 Evergreen Road, Dearborn, MI 48128; e-mail: draus@umd.umich.edu
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*Paul J. Draus, Department of Behavioral Sciences, The University of Michigan-Dearborn, 4902 Evergreen Road, Dearborn, MI 48128; e-mail: draus@umd.umich.edu

Abstract

In this article, I focus on problem substance use as one outcome of an underlying, “slow-motion disaster” caused by the long-term collision between corrosive structural processes, counterproductive social policies, and vulnerable populations. Using the city of Detroit as an illustration, I offer an original conceptual model for linking the causes and cascading consequences of slow-motion disasters. This model highlights the embedded connections between structural factors, such as racial segregation and systemic unemployment, and multiple destructive outcomes, including health and crime disparities, as well as problem substance use. Finally, I conclude that sociological researchers must engage with broader publics and diverse coalitions if they are to contribute to an alternative social policy—a holistic, regional “disaster response”—that takes multiple layers of causality into account, and addresses the core of vulnerabilities that make such disasters possible.

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