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In the Spirit of Selden Bacon: The Sociology Of Drinking and Drug Problems

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Abstract

In 1943, the sociologist Selden Bacon proposed studying drinking behavior from a “sociologic” perspective. Since then, a problem-oriented approach – a sociology of problem drinking and problem drug use, not a sociology of drinking and drug use behavior – has dominated the literature on alcohol and other drugs. However, a review of the literature reveals a sociology of drinking and drug problems in the spirit of the research that Bacon proposed. This article suggests that the sociology of drinking and drug problems can be regarded as a multidisciplinary field of study and usefully divided among three primary perspectives: (1) a sociocultural perspective that considers social change, modern society, and cultural influence; (2) a socio-environmental perspective that explores social learning, social setting, and alienation; and (3) an ideological perspective that examines cultural, institutional, and professional ideologies. The sociology of drinking and drug problems exposes the considerable influence of “sociologic” factors on problem drinking and problem drug use across scientific disciplines and, in particular, that problem drinking and problem drug use, from a multidisciplinary standpoint, are not caused exclusively by biologic traits. However, the sociology of drinking and drug problems is limited by the problem-oriented approach. More research needs to analyze the normal use of alcohol and other drugs to better understand the connection between substance use and social life.

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