Theoretical Explanation Of Addiction Essay

Theoretical Explanation Of Addiction Essay

This paper would discuss about Social Strain Theory and for a better understanding, the paper would use the story of a Meth addict to explain more about this theory. Social strain theory “a set of meritocratic principles which assured the American public that equality of opportunity was available to all, regardless of class, gender or ethnicity” (Revise Sociology, 2015). Individuals are taught to attain a level of wealth to be seen as successful in society. Individuals are also taught to pursue these goals through legitimate means such as getting an education and also having a job. Attaining these goals through legitimate means cannot be possible for every individual; and this brings about anomie. Theoretical Explanation Of Addiction Essay

Anomie is described as the imbalance between cultural goals and institutionalized (legitimate) means. “More specifically, Agnew identified three general categories of strain:

  • the failure to achieve any positively valued goal,
  • the removal (or threatened removal) of positively valued stimuli,
  • the presentation (or threat) of noxious stimuli” (Gallupe & Baron, 2009).

When individuals are faced with a strain in society, they have five ways to adapt. The five different types of adaptation are Conformity, Innovation, Ritualism, Retreatism and Rebellion. Conformity is when you conform to the social norms by pursuing the societal goals through the socially approved means. Innovation is when you use societal unapproved means to achieve the approved societal goals. Ritualism is when you use the approved societal means to achieve less of the societal approved goals. Retreatism is when you reject the societal approved goals and the means but instead you find to escape them. Rebellion is when you reject the societal approved means and goals and you find a way to change them.Theoretical Explanation Of Addiction Essay

To explain furthermore on strain theory, this paper would use an example of a young woman (Sara), who lost everything due through the strain of society; which led to her using drugs. Sara is a 24 young woman living in Minnesota. Sara is a meth addict. Within three years, she lost her job, car, house, marriage and also the custody of her child; and all these happened due to drugs. To Sara, getting high is not fun anymore, she would get sick if she does not get high. “Meth addicts suffer from depression, anxiety, paranoia, and an intense craving if they stop using” (A&E Intervention, S1, E5).

Sara has been convicted for minor offences like theft, she did this to be able to get funds to buy her drugs. Sara feels a sense of worthlessness, that she is a good mother and a good daughter. Sara started using drugs after the divorce with her husband, it felt like a big failure on her part. She started using drugs to take the pain away. Once Sara, came into the criminal justice system as an offender, it became a vicious circle for her. She kept on violating her probation, going to over and over again. These things prompted her to keep going back to drugs.Theoretical Explanation Of Addiction Essay


Sara needs the people that are around her to be there for her and love her and support her through this process. Sara started to feel the strain when she lost her job, her car and her house; but those things didn’t push her until she got divorced. She felt like she had failed at everything and that is when she started taking drugs, because she could not deal with all the disappointments. “Support for gateway sequencing has been mixed, especially in research that has considered the role of criminological variables in the etiology of substance use. For example, limited prior research has observed as important in gateway sequencing the effects of severe stressors” (McCutcheon & Watts, 2018).

When individuals are going to through a situation or stress, they have different ways of handling it; but some individuals who do not know to handle the situation, so they try to find a way out. A way for some of them can be through gambling, smoking, drinking or using drugs. Sara was part of the people who could not handle the societal stress well and she found a way out, which was by smoking Methamphetamine. “Adverse relationships and situations put pressure on individuals to engage in corrective action; deviant behavior is one form of corrective action in response to strain” (Schroeder & Ford, 2012).Theoretical Explanation Of Addiction Essay

When there is a strain on an individual’s relationship with people or the individual is going a tough situation, they try to find the most suitable solution. When you find a solution to the problem and you see it works for you, there is a high tendency that you would always use that solution when you are in a tough situation. This is how addiction can start. When you have so much going on in your life and you just want to forget about all of it, you can start using drugs for the high. Slowly you become dependent on it, because you feel everything around you would fail you. The strain from society as well to also attain a certain lifestyle can also weigh you down.

In the society we live in, you have to go to get an education to get a good job; to be recognized as a respectable member of society. This is how Sara lost it, she felt she was not good enough and that she had failed as a human being and this is due to the way society makes addict feel. Society has a big influence on individual, if we want to set a certain standard for people to follow we should make it easy for them to be followed. When people cannot achieve that standard, we should not make them feel excluded from society, but we should find a way for them to so also achieve that standard. Addicts are also humans, so we should find a way to help them not criminalize them. Sometimes, we are as a society are part of their problems, we should not now cast them aside because of what they are going through.Theoretical Explanation Of Addiction Essay

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  2. McCutcheon, J. C., & Watts, S. J. (2018). An examination of the importance of strain in the cannabis gateway effect. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 62(11), 3603-3617, retrieved from
  3. Merton’s Strain Theory of Deviance. (2016, April 16). Retrieved September 30, 2018, from
  4. Schroeder, R. D., & Ford, J. A. (2012, January 1). Prescription Drug Misuse: A Test of Three Competing Criminological Theories. Retrieved September 30, 2018, from Theoretical Explanation Of Addiction Essay