Prohibition or Liberalization of Alcohol and Drugs?

A Sociocultural Perspective
  • Dwight B. Heath
Part of the Recent Developments in Alcoholism book series (RDIA, volume 10)


The “war against drugs,” and calls for increasing restrictions on the availability of alcoholic beverages, reflect a resurgence in the popularity of mandated formal controls and suspicion of informal controls. A small, but increasing countercurrent recommends various forms of liberalization of access to alcohol and drugs. Both viewpoints are being promulgated for their efficacy in reducing and/or preventing a broad range of problems “associated with” (and often assumed to be caused by) psychoactive substances.

In the absence of rigorous empirical evidence on the subject, critical examination of prior experience in the United States, and of analogous experiences in other cultures, provides a range of relevant “natural experiments.” The association of alcohol and cocaine with various problems varies markedly from culture to culture and from time to time within a single culture. The definition of “abuse” problems is evidently based on social constructions rather than reflecting the epidemiology of public health and social welfare.

Formal and informal controls are not mutually exclusive and can be complementary. A broader view of education and of controls could result in fruitful natural experiments among jurisdictions within this country, and lessen alcohol and drug problems at the same time.


Psychosocial Factor Alcoholic Beverage Psychoactive Substance Formal Control Drug Problem 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dwight B. Heath
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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