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A Sociological Theory of Drug Addiction

Alfred R. Lindesmith
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 43, No. 4 (Jan., 1938), pp. 593-613
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2768486
Page Count: 21
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
A Sociological Theory of Drug Addiction
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Abstract

Current theories of drug addiction tend to be moralistic rather than scientific. Any satisfactory theory must attempt to account for the fact that the repeated administration of opiates sometimes is followed by addition and sometimes is not. The factor which accounts for this differential effect appears to be the person's knowledge or belief, supplied him by his cultural milieu, concerning the nature of the distress that accompanies the sudden cessation of the opiate. If he fails to realize the connection between this distress and the opiate he escapes addiction, whereas if he attributes the discomfort to the opiate and thereafter uses the opiate to alleviate it he invariably becomes addicted. Addiction is generated in the process of using the drug consciously to alleviate withdrawal distress. No exceptions to this theory could be found. It is confirmed by analysis of certain aspects of addict argot and by the consideration of certain types of crucial cases. The theory provides a simple means of accounting for many aspects of the habit. It is methodologically significant in that it is based upon case data and is at the same time universal in form and subject to definite verification or disproof.

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