Deviance as Non-Conformity
Deviance is defined as non-conformity to social, cultural or behavioral norms. A deviant is a person who displays behaviors that meet this definition – they are people who engage in antisocial activities, abuse drugs and alcohol, violate criminal laws, live outside social norms, and engage in violence. However, deviance may not necessarily mean that a person is criminal, violent, antisocial or disengaged. It may also indicate that they deviate from social norms in a particular community or social setting. That person may choose to hold a particular religious belief, sexual preference or even use drugs or drink alcohol when this does not fit the standard practices of that setting.
The sociological perspective suggests that deviance can only be defined in the presence of rules. Deviance is the consequence applying certain rules to behaviors or action. However, because it is defined in relation to a set of rules in one social setting, the behavior may fit one social norm but actually deviate from the rules of another. For example, the use of alcohol is forbidden in Islamic nations such as Iran, Saudi Arabia but is widely accepted in America, United Kingdom and Europe.
Deviant behavior is often linked with antisocial or delinquent behavior in that the acts are often troublesome and disrupting. Involvement in criminal activities, drug and alcohol mis-use, violence and aggression are some of the common deviant behaviors that occur. Drug and alcohol abuse is a common because individuals will often seek out or engage in activities that are socially non-conformist. They identify as rebellious, tolerant, pleasure seeking and independent. Many desire to be seen as different. This is particularly relevant for youth and young adults who engage in drug and alcohol use. They begin to use a substance as a way to identify with something outside the norm and will neutralize the stigma associated with the drug or alcohol abuse through identifying with it. The individual will become involved in the subculture of drug use and there will be a continued motivation to use the drug because it is enjoyable, it is rebellious and they have a determined identity when they use.
A person may use drugs to associate with others who are deviants, or to separate themselves from what is considered the norm. However, due to the highly addictive nature of drugs and alcohol, individuals often find themselves involved in the cycle of addiction without realizing before its too late. Causal or recreational use of a drug can easily lead to the development of tolerance and dependency when the substance is taken more frequently and at higher doses. A person who was experimenting or just having fun with friends may soon find themselves craving the drug, seeking it out at any opportunity and spending significant amounts of time involved with the drug.
Deviance and Addiction
An addiction is defined as a physical and psychological dependence on a mind-altering substance. It may also be defined as the compulsive use and dependence on a psychoactive substance. Either definition is suited to explaining the behavioral and psychological change that occurs as a result of repeated, chronic use of a substance. An addiction can occur to any person due to the addictive nature of a substance like alcohol that alters the brain chemistry, changes behaviors and impacts on a persons’ health.
Deviance and addiction combined can be a very dangerous and damaging thing. Substances may magnify some of the negative symptoms associated with deviance such as antisocial behavior, aggression, lying and disengagement. Psychoactive substances (which includes alcohol) alter how people react and respond to people or places. A person who may otherwise have been interested in particular activities or people will become withdrawn, fail to meet obligations, avoid going to certain places or see certain people. A person who was living outside social norms could become even further removed. Drugs or alcohol will take over their life, control how they feel and what they do. And without commitment, support or medication, the substance can lead them down a path that has fatal consequences.
A deviant lifestyle is one that can be difficult to break, especially if there is the added pressure of addiction. The long term consequences of abusing drugs and alcohol can cause problems with health, relationships, socializing and financial problems. Some people may be incarcerated as a result of their deviant behaviors and actions and find themselves involved in more severe criminal circles. Drug abuse in prisons is common and a person may begin to take drugs like methamphetamine and heroin as a way to cope with life behind bars. Use of drugs within a criminal justice system is incredibly dangerous and is known to be a factor in getting blood-borne viruses like HIV or hepatitis. Seeking help from friends, family member, acquaintances or even a medical professional is the first step to overcoming the addiction.