Engaging ideas, transforming minds
Engaging ideas, transforming minds

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326 pages
6.75 x 9.75 inches
May 2018
Print ISBN: 9781773380520


Why are some drugs considered socially acceptable while others are demonized? What makes these definitions so widespread? Who benefits from these conceptualizations? The Drug Paradox examines both the empirically founded and the socially constructed facets of drugs and drug use, highlighting the incongruous aspects of laws, policies, and programming that aim to address behaviours around drugs. The authors explore this paradox, arguing that Canada’s punitive approach to addressing drug use continues to exist alongside harm-reduction strategies and that these competing approaches ultimately impede Canada’s ability to deal effectively with substance misuse.

Using a policy-oriented approach while also emphasizing the utility of a multifaceted biopsychosocial model, this text provides students with a foundation in the sociology of psychoactive substances in the Canadian context. It covers a broad range of issues—models of addiction, the history of Canada’s drug laws, media representation, government responses to substance use, and international perspectives on drug policy—and addresses various research areas that are important for students to consider when trying to make sense of the competing discourses on drugs in society. This timely textbook is ideal for use in sociology courses on drugs or drug use and will also appeal to those focusing on drug use from a criminology, public health, cannabis studies, or policy perspective.


  • evaluates drugs and their use in Canadian society through a sociological lens
  • provides an up-to-date discussion of both legal and illegal drugs
  • each chapter includes a list of paradoxes and critical reflection questions

Table of Contents

Table of Contents Preface xiii

Acknowledgements xvi

Chapter 1: The Drug Paradox: Canada’s Conflicting Approaches to Drugs and Drug Users  1

1.1 What Is the Drug Paradox? 1 1.2 Defining the Core Concepts 4 1.3 The Social Reality of Drugs and Drug Use 10

Chapter 2: The History and Politics of Canada’s Drug Laws 15

2.1 Prohibition Era 16 2.2 The Opium Act (1908) 17 2.3 Proprietary or Patent Medicine Act (1908) 19 2.4 The Opium and Drug Act (1911) 20

2.5 The Opium and Narcotic Drug Act (1929) 21

2.6 The Narcotic Control Act (1961) 23 2.7 Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (1996) 25 2.8 Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (2013) 26 2.9 Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (2016) 27 2.10 A Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada (2016) 27 2.11 Conclusion 28

Chapter 3: Explaining Substance Use I: Biological and Psychological

Theories  31

3.1 The Moral Model Versus the Medical Model 32 3.2 Biological Explanations 35

Nature and Drive Theories Genetic Theories Neurobiological Theories

3.3 Psychological Explanations 41

Personality Theories Behavioural Theories Psychopathology

3.4 Conclusion 48

Chapter 4: Explaining Substance Use II: Sociological Theories  50

4.1 Control Theories 51

Social Bonding Theory

Self-Control Theory

4.2 Strain Theories 54

Anomie/Strain Theory

General Strain Theory

4.3 Subcultural Theories 57

Labelling Theory

Differential Association Theory

Social Learning Theory (Differential Association-Reinforcement Theory)

4.4 Integrated Explanations of Substance Use 62

Differential Opportunity Theory

Drift Theory

Routine Activities and Lifestyle Theories

4.5 Conflict Theories 65

Marxian Conflict Theory Pluralist Conflict Theory

4.6 Postmodern Explanations 68

Normalization Thesis

Foucault and Biopower

4.7 Conclusion 73

Chapter 5: Classifying Drugs: Psychopharmacological Properties and

Legal Classifications  76

5.1 What Is Psychopharmacology and Why Does It Matter to Sociologists? 77

5.2 Opioids (Narcotics) 79

Natural Opioids

Semi-Synthetic Opioids

Synthetic Opioids

Legal Classification and Penalties for Opioids

5.3 Depressants 89

Alcohol Barbiturates Benzodiazepines Inhalants/Solvents

Legal Classification and Penalties for Depressants

5.4 Stimulants 94


Amphetamines (Including Methamphetamine)



Legal Classification and Penalties for Stimulants

5.5 Hallucinogens 101

Natural Hallucinogens

Semi-Synthetic Hallucinogens

Synthetic Hallucinogens

Legal Classification and Penalties for Hallucinogens

5.6 Cannabis (Marijuana) 106

Legal Classification and Penalties for Cannabis

5.7 Psychotherapeutic Agents and Performance-Enhancing

Drugs 108

Psychotherapeutic Agents

Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Legal Classification and Penalties for Psychotherapeutic Agents and

Performance-Enhancing Drugs

5.8 The Problem with Drug Effects and Legal Classifications 113

Chapter 6: The Socially Constructed Problem of Drugs and Drug

Users  115

6.1 Bath Salts 116 6.2 Ecstasy 117 6.3 Crystal Meth 118 6.4 Cocaine 120 6.5 Prescription Stimulants: Attention-Enhancing Prescription Drugs 123 6.6 Cannabis 124 6.7 Solvents/Inhalants 126 6.8 Prescription Opioids 127 6.9 Heroin 128 6.10 Hallucinogens 129 6.11 Bringing Together the Objective and Subjective Realities 131

Chapter 7: Studying Substance Use  133

7.1 Population-Based Studies 133

International Studies National Studies Provincial/Regional Studies

Advantages and Disadvantages of Population-Based Studies

7.2 Field-Based Studies 140

In-Depth Interviews Focus Groups Ethnographies

Advantages and Disadvantages of Field-Based Studies

7.3 Clinical Population Studies 145

Treatment Studies

Correctional Populations

Advantages and Disadvantages of Clinical Population Studies

7.4 Indigenous Methodological Approaches 150

7.5 Conclusion 152

Chapter 8: Demographic Correlates of Substance Use in Canada  155

8.1 General Prevalence Rates of Substance Use in Canada 156 8.2 Demographic Correlates 158



Ethnicity and Race Socioeconomic Status (SES) Geographic Location

8.3 Conclusion 172

Chapter 9: Relational Correlates of Substance Use in Canada: Peers and

Families  174

9.1 Peers 175

Perceived Peer Use Versus Actual Peer Use

Social Activities and Peers

Selection of Peers

Intimate Partners

9.2 Families 179

Sibling Influence Parental Influences Parental Substance Use

9.3 Conclusion 187

Chapter 10: Prevention Strategies for Drugs and Potential Drug Users in

Education  189

10.1 Types of Prevention in Education 190

Universal Prevention Selective Prevention Indicated Prevention

10.2 Drug Education in Schools 192 10.3 Models of Drug Education 196

Information/Knowledge Models Values/Decision-Making Models Social Competency Models

Harm Minimization/Harm Reduction Models

10.4 Drug Educators: Teachers and Police 198

10.5 Ontario: The Case of Failed Drug Education 200

10.6 Future of Drug Education: The Good and the Bad 202

Chapter 11: Legal Responses to Drugs and Drug Users  208

11.1 Prohibition 210

Advantages and Disadvantages of Prohibition

11.2 Decriminalization 217

Advantages and Disadvantages of Decriminalization

11.3 Legalization 220

Free-Market Legalization

Limited-Distribution Legalization

Medical Legalization

Advantages and Disadvantages of Legalization

11.4 Conclusion 229

Chapter 12: International Drug Policies  233

12.1 International Drug Conventions 234 12.2 Punitive Policies 236

Russia China Iran

12.3 Pragmatic Policies 240

Portugal Netherlands Uruguay

12.4 Conclusion 245

Chapter 13: Canada’s Drug Policies  247

13.1 Advocates for Punitive Approaches 249 13.2Advocates for Pragmatic Approaches 250 13.3 What Is the Official Approach to Drugs and Drug Use in Canada? 251 13.4 The Missing Component in Canada’s Current National Anti-Drug Strategy: Harm Reduction 255

13.5 The Future 259

Appendix A: Canadian Cannabis Legalization Highlights (by Province/Territory) 262

References 264

Index 300


Instructor Resources

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