Drugs, sex and violence. Some might think of a Green Day song when they hear these words. Some might say they could be grouped together to describe an angst phase amongst the younger generation. Some would agree that these terms are affiliated with lower socio-economic classes. Generally it could be said that these three topics have many things in common and are perhaps a product of each other. But what exactly is it that links the three together? Has more freedom, not enough education and social factors lead to the rise of negative impacts of these outlets?
When we look at drugs, we must consider how so much more accessible they are becoming especially to a younger generation. It is also hard to avoid the hard facts that the biggest issues with drugs in this country are among those of from lower social status.
Social norms have changed greatly particularly in Ireland over the past number of decades. Less pressure to marry, being more acceptable to divorce have contributed to more casual sexual encounters. Unfortunately, it can also be said that more uneducated people are more susceptible to bad sexual health.
Perhaps the biggest link in the chain is the relationship between drugs and violence. The Dublin inner city gangs of ‘The Hutchs’ and ‘The Kinahans’ are re-nouned in Ireland for their possession of firearms and level of violence but also the fact that they are the biggest importers of drugs into Ireland.
Drug use in Ireland
Drug use in Ireland fluctuates in terms of the consumption of illegal drugs and the various types of drugs being consumed. According to Giddens and Sutton, the type of illegal drugs that are consumed are shifting from ‘hard’ drugs such as heroin and cocaine towards a combination of illegal drugs such as ecstasy and amphetamines. The increase in the use of these illegal drugs may be due to the increased popularity of rave music. Drugs such as ecstasy are associated with club subcultures and in recent years the popularity of rave festivals can be seen to have increased.
The relationship between the consumption of illegal drugs and the level of crime in Ireland is a controversial topic. Is there a direct link between drug use and crime or is it a case of society stereotyping? According to Talcott Parsons, an American sociologist was interested in human social action examined the relationship between drug abuse and crime. He believed individuals may commit crimes to feed their addiction. The crimes they commit may result in having excess capital to support their drug addiction.
Is there a strong relationship between drug use and the level of sexually transmitted diseases? According to the Irish Times an upcoming drug GHB, commonly known as G, is consumed by males at ‘chemsex’ orgies. This drug enhances sexual pleasure for individuals who utilise it. There was no evidence that chemsex is related to the increase of HIV, however, a study found that males who engaged in chemsex were more likely to have chlamydia or gonorrhoea. Drug abuse can lead to miscommunication between one another. This may result in mistaken consent or an individual may forget to mention a sexually transmitted disease that they may have.
Is it fair to say that drug use is more common in areas of lower socioeconomic status? According to Wilkinson and Pickett, there is increased drug use in lower social status areas. This may be due to a high level of inequality. Inequality may be present in everyday items such as shelter and clothing or it may be related to education. Poor education in an area may lead to a poor knowledge of drug abuse and its consequences. Wilkinson and Pickett examined the relationship between drug use and poor mental health in unequal societies. Economist Robert Frank discussed the want for luxury goods at the top of the hierarchical system. These luxury goods are then passed down the socioeconomic ladder. However, when individuals cannot possess these goods they are at risk of a high level of stress and dissatisfaction with their own goods. This may result in individuals consuming illegal drugs to escape from society and reality.
Sexual behaviour in Ireland
Sexual behaviour and health are prominent factors of inequality in Irish societies today. In recent decades particularly, research and resources have been directed towards the investigation of the relationship between socio-economic factors and social behaviour and health. This was partly due to the pandemonium of the HIV AIDS crisis that created stigma towards certain social groups during the 80s and 90s. According to the findings by Wilkinson in the book The Social Determinants of Health, the practice of unsafe sex is the leading cause of prominent diseases in the world, with higher causation rates of diseases rather than health issues such as high blood pressure and social issues relating to tobacco or alcohol. His findings also focus on the relationship between social determinants and sexual behaviour and sexual health.
The Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships in October 2006 found that sexual behaviour was influenced and determined by numerous social aspects, such as the continuous development of social attitudes and culture and also a country’s legal system. In all these respects, Ireland has changed dramatically in the last four decades in relation to how sexual behaviours and health is sociologically viewed. It is evident that industrialisation and urbanisation occurred in Ireland many years after other countries, and prior to this Ireland withheld very traditionalistic views. Therefore, after the 1960s, there was a tremendous change in the attitudes and behaviours revolving around sexual behaviour. This was also due to external influences, as mass media continuously grew and the progression of sexual behaviour was publicised and made available to the Irish population. Research also shows that poor general and sexual health varies across the socio-economic scales and social classes, i.e people from lower income families or who have received inadequate education are more likely to suffer from poor sexual health due to their living standards. There is also an evident lack of family planning with individuals who do not have access to education. In 2001, HIV Ireland identified poverty and social exclusion as the main determinants of sexual health in Ireland.
The HIV STIs Notifications in Ireland in 2014 exemplified that there had been 12,626 reports of STIs in Ireland, with an increase of 4% to the previous year. Chlamydia accounted for 53% of the total number of STIs reported, with 6,695 cases in 2014. The age group of 15-24 accounted for approximately 52% of the total cases of chlamydia reported, which could depict that young adults are potentially still not receiving adequate education revolving around the cautions that need to be taken in the practice of safe sex.
Violence in Ireland
Violence in Ireland is on the increase as the years go on due to, both, health and inequality factors. Elements helping violence to rise in a society can be down to the previous issues of drug-related problems and sexual-behaviour in Ireland. Violence can often occur due to an individual’s mental state. Low self-esteem has been proven to cause violence and crime within relationships. As Wilkinson points out, the main issue of violence is that ‘we’, as social beings, have a great difficulty in conferring with the social world we are part of and the social relationships we engage in. He poses the insightful question of whether we think of others supplying us with ‘support, comfort and self-realisation’ or simply just as ‘sources of tension and anxiety putting us off our guard?’.
Furthermore, inequality can come in various forms, the primary examples being income and gender inequality. According to Wilkinson, violence is more common in societies with bigger income differences. In understanding this, he states that the violence is not increasing between the rich and the poor, that it is usually scattered among the poor themselves. It is true that the poorest neighbourhoods in a town are often the most dangerous. For example, the Independent reports in their article on ‘Estates from Hell’, by enclosing a list of places that are probably not on your to-see lists (Sheepmoor in Dublin, Fairview Crescent in Limerick, Ballybeg in Waterford and so on). The article describes many of the places listed as steeped in crime and anti-social behaviour as they highlight the violent attacks and murders carried out by gangs of the area.
Violence relating to gender has become an increasingly important factor in Ireland. Quoting from the Irish Times on their article about protecting women from domestic violence, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) asked what members hopes were for Government priorities in 2015. The results showed that protecting women from domestic and sexual violence was the crucial response, with 87 per cent of the vote. Although this may seem a more old-fashioned request as it is 2017, to this day one in five women are still victims of domestic violence.
It is true to claim that inequality is a major determining factor that causes violence. The same can be said for health too. The use of drugs increasing in Ireland is a prime example for this as this may cause individuals to commit crimes to obtain the drugs. More often than not, it is families that are left in the firing line when dragged into the centre of the crime violently if payments are not paid. The Irish Examiner produced statements from the Garda of different gang members in relation to drugs that proves this point, “Got threatened to be shot. Family paid the money for me as I got in debt.” [seller Site D]. These two sentences that sum up the problem in Ireland at the present and the slippery slope violence can lead to if not stamped out.
Between drugs, sex and violence, there are many social factors involved in the negative impacts they have on society. It can also be said that a lack of education can contribute to poor decisions being made by people in regards taking drugs, having unprotected sex and resorting to violence.
There is a prominent group of people who succumb to the negative effects of these and that is those from lower social classes. Although there have been implications made by the government such as lowering costs of protective measures such as condoms and safe injections, providing education, reducing poverty and improving the status of women, there is still an issue, there is still anti-social behaviour taking place every day. So what do you think when you hear the words sex, drugs and violence? Is it a green day song or is it something more objectified.
Naomi Cavanagh, Judi Fitzpatrick, Hazel O’ Shea , Rachel Millar