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Chapter 7 Involvement in the Broader Drug Culture PDF Print E-mail
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Books - The Working Addict
Written by David Caplovitz   

In the last chapter we saw that for a substantial minority of the working addicts, drug use at the work place was part of a social experience. Thus about a third of the working addicts bought or sold drugs at work, and about 40 per cent used drugs with their co-workers at work and a similar proportion knew of at least one co-worker who was also an addict. In these respects, elements of a drug culture had intruded in some work settings. But a majority of the working addicts did not share drug experiences at work. For this majority, their drug habit was largely hidden from their co-workers. Were those in this majority inclined to be "hidden addicts" at the time they were employed, avoiding other addicts and shunning their style of life? Or did these working addicts live pretty much a double life, participating in the straight world of work during working hours and in the highly deviant world of other addicts and their drug culture after working hours? The present chapter deals with this issue.

On the basis of the data on hand, most working addicts were not "hidden addicts"; rather, they led double lives in that they were active participants in the broader drug culture. The idea of a drug culture encompasses several things. Obviously, such a culture presupposes social ties among addicts. Addicts must hang out together, and treat each other as friends if a drug culture is to emerge. Such a culture encompasses not only social activities based on drugs, but also the wide range of criminal activities that addicts engage in to support their habit. To engage in criminal behavior is to engage in behavior that, however deviant from the viewpoint of the dominant culture, is approved of by the drug culture. We have two sets of data bearing on the addict's participation in the broader drug culture --- his reliance on crime to support his habit and his socializing with other addicts. On the basis of these indicators, most of the working addicts were active in the drug culture outside of work. Thus, 74 per cent of the addicts told us that they resorted to crime to help pay for their drug habit. Some stole from their employer (either money or merchandise), 32 per cent, and most stole outside of work through various hustling activities (64 per cent). Only 10 per cent of the working addicts claimed that they had no addict friends; 27 per cent reported having some addict friends and the majority, 64 per cent, said that most of their friends were addicts. When asked whether they spent most of their nonworking hours with other addicts, 65 per cent of the working addicts answered yes. A telling mark of being a member of the broader drug culture is having a criminal record. Most addicts must resort to crime and most, sooner or later, are arrested, and this brush with the law becomes symbolic of being part of a drug culture. In spite of the fact that they worked and that many of them earned a fairly good living, a majority of the working addicts had to resort to crime to support their habit and a majority had a criminal record. Only one-fifth of the working addicts (19 per cent) had avoided being arrested. Some 81 per cent had been arrested and a majority, 59 per cent, had been convicted of a crime. In the sections which follow, we take a closer look at these aspects of involvement in a drug culture.

Reliance on Crime to Support the Drug Habit

Almost three out of every four working addicts told us that they had to resort to crime to support their habit. This dependency on crime is virtually independent of the addict's social characteristics. Whatever their age, education, religion or ethnicity, they resorted to crime in similar proportions. The only exception is sex. Men were much more likely than women to engage in criminal acts to support their habit (80 per cent compared with 58 per cent). These negative findings hold not only for the question of how the addict supported his habit, that is from earnings or from crime, but also for the question of stealing from the employer and the question of hustling money outside of work. Engaging in criminal behavior is not related to most of the work characteristics such as occupation, industry, job satisfaction and strenuousness of work. But there is one exception: income. Those in the highest income group, because they earned so much, were under less pressure to resort to crime. This can be seen from Table 7.1 which presents the findings for the three questions bearing on crime.

Engaging in crime in general and hustling outside of work falls off sharply among those earning over $250 a week, but, oddly enough, stealing from the employer is as common among the highest paid as those earning less (the middle row of Table 7.1).
Our earlier statement that criminal behavior is unrelated to industry must be qualified in one important respect. Whether the addict engages in crime at all is unrelated to industry as is stealing outside of the work place. But stealing from the employer is much more common in the retail industry where there is an opportunity to take something of value, than in the other industries. Fully 61 per cent of the addicts who worked in retailing stole from their employer compared with only 41 to 29 per cent of those employed in other industries.

Although social characteristics and job characteristics are generally not related to involvement in crime, the strength of the addict's habit, as measured by the involvement in drugs index, and the degree of impact of drugs on the addict's job is strongly related to dependence on crime. Those deeply involved in drugs need so much money to support their habit, they cannot get by on income legitimately earned. Table 7.2 shows the connection between drug involvement and these indicators of crime involvement.

The great majority of those deeply involved with drugs engaged in crime to support their habit (fully 86 per cent) and as the data show, the per cent who stole from their employer and hustled outside of work steadily increases with drug involvement.

A similar pattern is shown by the other measure of drug involvement, the degree of impact of drug use on the addict's job (Table 7.3).

Resorting to crime, whether stealing from the employer or stealing outside of work, strongly increases as the impact of drugs on the addict's job increases. Those who get high at work, fall asleep at work, and miss work because of drugs are much more likely to be involved in crime.

The finding that involvement in crime is related to the impact of drugs on the addict's job suggests that there is an overlap between involvement in an on-the-job drug culture and the broader drug culture of the city. Further evidence of this overlap is provided by the strong association between buying or selling drugs at work and reliance on crime to support one's habit, as can be seen from Table 7.4.

The more likely the addict is to buy and sell drugs at work, the more likely he is to engage in criminal behavior both on and off the job to support his habit.

A similar picture of the overlap between a drug culture at work and the broader drug culture in the community is shown by the association between using drugs with others at work and involvement in criminal behavior (Table 7.5).

The second aspect of involvement in the broader drug culture is socializing with other addicts. If working addicts were determined to be "hidden addicts" they would try to avoid other addicts and spend as little time with them as possible. But if their mode of adjustment was to lead a double life, then they would socialize with other addicts as part of their participation in the broader drug culture. As we have seen, most working addicts did socialize with other addicts. A majority told us that most of their friends were addicts and that they spent most of their nonworking time with other addicts.

In keeping with the notion that involvement in crime and socializing with other addicts are both aspects of the drug culture, these two components are related to each other. Thus, of those who have no addict friends, 53 per cent rely on crime to support their habit, a figure that climbs to 69 per cent of those who have some addict friends and 80 per cent of those with mostly addict friends.

Just as the addict's social characteristics had little bearing on his criminal behavior, so they have no bearing on his socializing with other addicts. Whatever their age, education, religion, ethnicity or even sex, the addicts socialized with other addicts to the same extent. The occupational variables are somewhat more likely to be related to socializing with other addicts. Those in higher white collar occupations are least likely to say that most of their friends are addicts (58 per cent) and the unskilled workers are most likely to have mostly addict friends (71 per cent), and government workers are least likely to spend most of their leisure time with other addicts (50 per cent), while those employed in manufacturing are most likely to (69 per cent). But again, the work variable that has the most impact on participation in the broader drug culture is income. Those in the highest income category are not only least likely to be involved in crime, they are also least likely to socialize with other addicts, as can be seen from Table 7.6.

The addicts in the highest income group were much less likely to socialize with other addicts than those of lower income. It would seem that the highest paid addicts, presumably because of their adequate financial resources, were least dependent on the drug culture and most successful at being "hidden addicts."

We saw that involvement in drugs was related to criminal behavior and to some extent drug involvement is also related to socializing with other addicts. Table 7.7 shows that drug involvement is strongly related to spending most free time with other addicts but only slightly related to having mostly addict friends.

The other measure of involvement with drugs, the extent to which the addict's habit had an impact on his job, is more strongly related to socializing with other addicts, as can be seen in Table 7.8.

The import of Tables 7.7 and 7.8 would seem to be that those most strongly hooked on drugs are also the ones most deeply enmeshed in the addict culture.

We have seen that dealing in drugs at work was related to involvement in crime suggesting an overlap between participating in a drug culture at work and in the broader drug culture. Oddly enough, however, dealing in drugs at work is not related to socializing with other addicts. Having most friends who are addicts and spending most free time with addicts does not increase the likelihood of buying or selling drugs at work. But there is one respect in which socializing with other addicts does contribute to the drug culture at work. Working addicts who socialize primarily with other addicts are more likely to be visible to their co-workers. The questions about whether the employer knew of the addict's addiction and whether his co-workers knew have been combined into a knowledge index. As Table 7.9 shows, this index is related to socializing with other addicts.

Although the relationship is not particularly strong, it would seem that having addict friends contributes to the addict's habit becoming public knowledge. In other words, addicts who are deeply involved in the broader drug culture are not as likely to remain "hidden addicts" as those who eschew the community's drug culture.
 

Having a Criminal Record

We have seen that in spite of their being gainfully employed, most of the working addicts had to resort to crime to support their habit. It comes as no surprise that the great majority have an arrest record and that a majority were convicted of crimes. Thus 80 per cent had been arrested and 59 per cent convicted. Only 20 per cent of the working addicts were able to avoid being arrested.

Although resorting to crime was not related to most of the social characteristics we have been considering, having a criminal record is related to a number of these characteristics. For example, age is very much related to having been convicted of a crime, as can be seen from Table 7.10.

The conviction rate steadily increases with age, almost doubling among the thirty and over group when compared with the 17 to 21 year olds. To get arrested and convicted is clearly a hazard of the addict world and the longer one is an addict, the more likely he is to get caught at crime. The telling point about Table 7.10 is that this holds true even for addicts who were able to hold a job for a number of years, as many in the oldest age group were able to do.

We saw that committing crimes is unrelated to the amount of education the addicts had. Those who attended college were as likely to resort to crime as those who failed to graduate from high school. But having an education is clearly an aid in avoiding the criminal justice system. As Table 7.11 shows, the better educated were less likely to get arrested, and especially less likely to get convicted than the poorly educated.

Just as education relates to unequal treatment at the hands of the criminal justice system, so does religion. We saw that there was little difference between the three major religious groups with regard to participation in crime. But the relatively few Jewish addicts were much less likely to come in contact with the law than the Protestant and Catholic addicts. Thus 35 per cent of the Jewish addicts were never arrested, compared with 24 per cent of the Protestants and only 16 percent of the Catholics. Only 38 per cent of the Jews were ever convicted of a crime in contrast with 57 per cent of the Protestants and 61 per cent of the Catholics. Sex is strongly related to having a criminal record. Men were much more likely than the women to have been arrested and convicted of crimes. Thus, only 12 per cent of the men managed to avoid an arrest, compared with 39 per cent of the women and 68 per cent of the men were convicted of crimes compared with 32 per cent of the women. Ethnicity is about the only social characteristic not related to a criminal record. White addicts are as likely as blacks and Puerto Ricans to have been arrested and convicted.

We saw that industry was unrelated to criminal acts, but striking differences arise among industries with respect to having a criminal record. The addicts who worked in blue collar industries were much more likely to have been arrested and convicted than those who worked in white collar industries and government employees were especially successful in avoiding convictions (Table 7.12).

Government employees are only slightly more likely than those employed in white collar industries to avoid arrest, but they are much more successful in avoiding conviction. Blue collar workers in contrast were especially likely to be arrested and convicted. Their conviction rate is more than twice that of the government employees. Inasmuch as industry was not related to participating in crime, it would seem that Table 7.12 calls attention to another inequity in the criminal justice system.

Occupation shows a pattern similar to industry. Although occupation was not strongly related to participation in crime, those in white collar occupations were more likely to avoid arrest and conviction than those in blue collar occupations. Thus, about a quarter of the higher and lower white collar workers were never arrested, compared with 13 per cent of the craftsmen, 18 per cent of the semi-skilled and 7 per cent of the unskilled. Only about half of the white collar workers were convicted, compared with 59 per cent of the craftsmen, 64 per cent of the semi-skilled, and fully 79 per cent of the unskilled. Arrest and conviction rates thus vary inversely with occupational prestige, a further sign of inequality in the criminal justice system.

We saw that the working addicts who earned the most money, those who made over $250 a week, did not resort to crime as often as those who earned less. Surprisingly, income is in no way an antidote to brushes with the law for these working addicts. If anything, the relationship is curvilinear, with the lowest paid and the highest paid having somewhat lower arrest records, as can be seen from Table 7.13.

The pattern is extremely irregular. Thus, those in the second lowest and second highest income categories have the highest arrest and conviction records and those who earned the most do not do as well as those who earned the least. What is particularly strange about these results is that the highest income group is the only one which is more likely to have an arrest record than to have resorted to crime to support their habit. Thus 64 per cent of those who earned over $250 a week engaged in crime to support their habit, but 73 per cent of this group had an arrest record. This would suggest that this highest income group contains people who were arrested for reasons unrelated to their drug habit.

One job characteristic that failed to relate to most of the attributes we have considered in this report turns out to be strongly related to having a criminal record and that is how strenuous the addict's job was. Of those whose job was not at all strenuous, 24 per cent managed to avoid being arrested; of those whose job was very strenuous, only 12 per cent avoided arrest. Conversely, 48 per cent of those in nonstrenuous jobs were convicted, compared with fully 72 per cent of those in very strenuous jobs. This pattern holds even though there was very little difference between these groups with regard to engaging in crime. (Those whose jobs were very strenuous were 6 percentage points more likely to engage in crime, 77 per cent compared with 71 per cent.) We have seen that blue collar workers were more likely than white collar workers to have a criminal record and, since blue collar work is more strenuous, part of this pattern may be due to the inequalities in the criminal justice system. But it is also likely that this finding reflects the differential impact of a criminal record on finding employment. People with criminal records are apt to be barred from certain occupations and industries. To the extent that strenuous work is held in disfavor, barriers to such jobs are no doubt lowered to the point where those with criminal records are eligible.

We have seen that drug involvement and having drugs affect one's job were related to participation in the broader drug culture, including participation in crime. Not surprisingly, those more deeply involved in drugs were more likely to have a criminal record. Table 7.14 shows how these measures are related to the likelihood of being convicted of a crime.

As involvement with drugs increases, so does the probability of conviction.

Those who were part of a drug culture at their place of work were also more likely to have a criminal record. Table 7.15 shows the connection between dealing in drugs at work and having a record.

Two other measures of a drug culture at the work place are also related to having a criminal record. Working addicts who knew of addicts among their co-workers were more likely to have a criminal record than those who did not know of any other addicts at their place of work (the conviction rate rises from 54 per cent to 60 to 66 per cent as the number of addict co-workers increases). And addicts who used drugs with others at the work place were more likely to have been convicted of crimes than those who did not (65 per cent compared with 55 per cent).

Needless to say, the more deeply enmeshed the working addict was in the broader drug culture, the more likely he was to have a criminal record. This is evident from the data on socializing with other addicts. Of those who claimed that they had no addict friends, 34 per cent were never arrested; of those who said they had some addict friends, 21 per cent were never arrested, and this rate drops to 16 per cent of those who said that most of their friends were addicts. Conversely, the conviction rate increases from 47 per cent to 58 per cent to 61 per cent as the number of addict friends increases. A similar pattern appears when spending most free time with addicts is related to having a criminal record. Of those who did not spend most of their time with addicts, 25 per cent avoided an arrest, but only 16 per cent of those who did spend most of their time with other addicts escaped arrest. Similarly, the likelihood of conviction increases (53 per cent compared with 62 per cent).

Not surprisingly, having a criminal record is strongly related to reliance on crime to support one's drug habit. Those who resorted to criminal acts, who stole from their employer and who hustled outside of work were much more likely to have been arrested and convicted of crimes. But what is surprising, astonishingly so, is that a substantial ' majority of those who did not resort to crime to support their habit also had an arrest record. These findings appear in Table 7.16.

Reading down each column we see the obvious fact that engaging in crime is related to having a criminal record. But the surprising finding is shown by the figures in the second row. In every instance, a majority of those who did not resort to crime to buy their drugs nevertheless had an arrest record. This does not mean that police are more ready to arrest addicts even when they are not guilty of any offense, for substantial numbers of those who claimed that they did not engage in crime to support their habit were convicted of crimes. Thus 43 per cent of those who did not resort to crime to support their habit, 54 per cent of those who did not steal from their employer, and 44 per cent of those who did not hustle were still convicted of crimes. This strongly suggests that addicts, whether they work or not, are part of the criminal culture of the community and may well commit crimes independent of their drug habit.

To summarize the findings presented so far, we have seen that most working addicts participate in the broader drug culture in that they socialize with other addicts and engage in crime to support their habit. This need to turn to crime to pay the inflated prices of illegal drugs partly explains why the marriage these addicts attempted between their drug habit and the world of work eventually broke down. Most of the working addicts had criminal records and this fact, as much as anything else, drove them out of the labor force. When asked their reasons for leaving their job, the great majority who had left their job by the time we interviewed them gave a variety of reasons. Some 17 per cent said they were fired and did not explain why. Conceivably, some of them were fired because of their brushes with the law. An additional 6 per cent said they were laid off and 4 per cent said their firm went out of business. The per cent who left work unvoluntarily because of actions by their employer thus comes to 28 per cent. Interference from the drug habit was given as the main reason for quitting by 14 per cent of the addicts. This is the commonly held view of the incompatability of drugs and work, but it applies to only one out of every seven of the working addicts. An additional 7 per cent said that they quit their job in order to enter a drug treatment program and this answer too points to the drug habit as a reason for quitting. In all then, 21 per cent, or one in every five, mentioned their drug habit as the reason for their leaving their job. But almost as many, some 17 per cent, referred to their criminal activities as the reason for their leaving their job. Thus 12 per cent said they lost their job because they were arrested, 3 per cent said they lost their job because they were caught stealing, and 2 per cent said they quit their job so that they could devote more time to their criminal activities. Other reasons for quitting included personal problems, illness and pregnancy. But the critical point is that a substantial number lost their job because of their involvement in the broader drug culture of crime.

 

Our valuable member David Caplovitz has been with us since Saturday, 16 June 2012.

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