Cycles of Social Problem Development: The Case of Drug Abuse

Mark Peyrot

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The genesis and course of a social problem results from the interplay of political and historical forces. This paper formulates a cyclical model of social problem development in which the history of drug abuse as a social problem is a function of the political processes which shape its course. The developmental cycle comprises five stages, with the fifth stage initiating a new cycle through the stages. Political struggles at each stage over the choice of definition and remedy are analyzed to explicate how the outcomes of earlier struggles become historical contingencies for subsequent stages. Institutionalized remedial approaches become entrenched and may not be superseded by subsequent approaches, leading to an accretion of institutional forms. Current drug abuse policy and programs, a patchwork accumulation of conflicting approaches instituted during different historical eras, exemplify this phenomenon.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)83-96
    Number of pages14
    JournalSociological Quarterly
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 1984

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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