Illegal Leisure: The Normalisation of Adolescent Recreational Drug Use
This book provides a full account of the North West Longitudinal Study of adolescent drug use. This quantitative and qualitative research was the largest single survey of adolescent drug use in Britain, although its findings are similar in many respects to the numerous, smaller local and national cross-sectional studies that began in the mid-1980s and have continued since. The North West Longitudinal Study was able to attract considerable resources and given its longitudinal validity provides a considerable payoff in terms of methodological robustness when compared to the many smaller, somewhat isolated studies. Nevertheless the specific results overall are not that much different from the many other studies, in that we know that recreational drug use has increased in popularity and acceptance among young people, and to some extent the points of detail about which drug is fashionable in what time and space seem increasingly less interesting (although these are important details for locally based service providers and health educators). From an academic point of view, the need to draw all this data into some theoretical synthesis that seeks to explain why politicians enjoy the rhetoric of a war against drugs when many of the battles are a waste of time and money needs urgent revision. A number of academics have made important historical contributions to this theoretical development, in particular Jock Young's paradigm of a society needing to find moral scapegoats. The problem is that decades later social science has not done much more to critically expose a policy system (so called `harm reduction') that seeks to take health promotion seriously by enlightening the `harmful' choices that young people make, and which rather denies the wider social and psychological traumas that young people face in a modern (or is it post-modern?) world. It is noted that the authors in this text prefer the term `modern', citing Giddens. If prescribed methadone now causes more fatal overdoses than illegal heroin can the policy really be called `harm reduction'? What about undertaking a piece of research that considers a broader picture of the various harms done to adolescents by modern society, communities and families—from the adolescent perspective? The authors do begin to explore a theoretical synthesis in the final chapter, but one cannot help thinking that the study was driven too much by an individualized and at best social psychological account of

Of more interest are comments like `To grow up today is to grow up in a risk society' and those `growing up today feel far less secure and more uncertain for far longer'. By the final chapter we do not need any more convincing that adolescent substance use is now relatively `normal'. rather than examining what this adolescent drug taking is about. and measure the scale of. but face the experience of fragmented families and communities? If social scientists stopped focusing on a descriptive analysis of drug trends and start asking young people what they comprehend of the society we now live in. where political ambivalence is endemic. communities and society in which they are placed. adolescent drug taking. What is the real meaning of adolescent drug use? This is a question for social scientists to address in the next Millennium. and how their evolving view and values about substances correspond to their critique of society. when and where. Applied social science has been obsessed with documenting adolescent drug use in terms of prevalence and incidence for some 20 years now. what they make of the social. What does it mean to be a young adult in a world without a clear moral consensus. This book is an important account of a certain style of research which has dominated one aspect of drugs policy. The first chapter explores social context.the meaning of drug use. then we might be in for some very interesting new social science reading and hopefully might get some new ideas for health promotion policies. The problem is that we have seen many of these types of frequency tables before. . The quantitative information deals with the types of drugs that are most popular. but the authors remind us of this fact using the grand term `normalisation thesis'. substance and emotional status. etc. but what is lacking is an account of how the young people see the families. There is an underlying clinical empiricism in this book and this makes the book too similar to the prevailing ethos of focusing on the apparent necessity to describe. After hundreds (if not thousands) of local health authority prevalence studies and several national studies hopefully this is now fairly widely accepted. Many of the qualitative quotes from young people are describing the drugs they took. educational and material expectations. but this information is then rather ignored in the analysis of findings in the later chapters. What is urgently needed for the next Millennium is a new social science account of the process of adolescence in modern (or is it post-modern?) society given the social stresses and uncertainties that the authors acknowledge as so influential on children. how they took them. the frequency of use. where people have high psychological. We read details of individuals financial. political and economic values they are exposed to. but it must mark the end of an era and open the door to a new synthesis of adolescent drug use.

2. 3. 4. John Aldridge.1. Fiona Measham and Philip Haynes . Howard Parker.

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