Drug Use and Normative Deviance

The widespread use of drugs, purportedly for recreational purposes, originated during the hippie era of the sixties when it emerged in direct violation of the existing rules and norms of society at that time. This kind of deviant behavior within the United States has evolved into widespread drug use by adolescents, which may be classified as deviant behavior along with the normative perspective because it is still in violation of the largely Christian ethic that still governs the country. The normative definition of deviance refers to the rules or expectations for adolescent behavior that are shared by society, which is being openly flouted through the violent behavior generated by drug use. Simmons (1965) examines different norms and when the violation of norms would be considered deviant. Murders, for example, break a legal norm that is based upon moral considerations. However, drug use would constitute the violation of a social norm, especially in adolescents who will not be deemed to be old enough or responsible enough to handle the effects of drugs and could slip into deviant criminal behavior.The normative perspective is also relevant within a particular social context because it provides an explanation for crime in particular groups or neighborhoods. As Wolfgang and Ferracuti (1967) point out, criminal behavior is more prevalent among African American individuals who are in low-status occupations and who live in slum areas and they attribute this trend to the value systems that exist among this particular group. There is pressure from peers within this group on individuals to engage in criminal behavior in order to appear strong and in tune with the norms and values of the group. Many adolescents may resort to criminal behavior and drug use, even when they are not personally comfortable with such behavior, merely to be in sync with the rest of the group and the prevailing values and norms within that group at that particular time.The normative approach, therefore, lends itself well to an examination of drug use among adolescents, since drug use has been linked to criminal activity (NIJ, 1996).