The Influence of Economic Status on Drug Use in South Florida Essay Sample

The Influence of Economic Status on Drug Use in South Florida


Drug use in the United States is a very prevalent problem, with over 10% of the population being known to indulge in illicit drugs on a regular basis (UNODC, 2015). Furthermore, the United Nation Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) estimates that most of the known users are aged 12 and above, although there also may have been cases of children under the age of 12 being exposed to drugs as well (UNODC, 2015). South Florida is one of the most active drug locations in the United States based on the fact that it is mostly a recreational environment with a tropical climate and impressive beaches. For this paper, the main interest is in defining a pattern for drug use in the region. It is already clear that drugs are easily accessible in the region since it is a gateway for most drug cartels. There is a need to define the characteristics of drug users to root out the problem rather than dealing with the symptoms. Although drugs and drug use, in general, have elicited interests from many quarters within and outside the state of California, the focus of this study will be to investigate the influence of economic status on drug use within the South Florida area.

Statement of the Problem

Most drugs have been illegal in the United States for a long time, and yet, they continue to destroy lives. Drug use statistics in the United States indicate that over 25 million Americans are exposed to the illicit drugs at least once a month, and some of these individuals are as young as 12 years. Considering the fact that the study cannot be expected to feature 100% of the population’s drug use status owing to the reliance on self-reporting, there is a possibility that the actual figures are much higher than the provided ones. Yet, these drugs are mainly illegal, and possession as well as distribution is both punishable by law. Clearly, the legal approach to dealing with drug addicts in the United States is not working too well so far. A significant number of the population in Florida South are in state penitentiaries serving long jail terms for selling drugs and even possessing them, but still up to 10% of the population is willing to take the risk (Degenhardt & Hall, 2012). This means that there is a need for a different and more effective approach to the drug use issue. Furthermore, Horwitz and Bagley (2016) established that criminalizing the distribution and possession of illicit drugs does not prevent the public from accessing and using them. Understanding the underlying factors that get these people to use the drugs will thus have a better impact on the search for a lasting solution to the problem.

Purpose of the Study

There has been an ongoing debate over the relationship between poverty and most of the ills of society including drug use, crime, and corruption among other things. The society has, in many cases, been blamed for creating its own problems, and drug use is considered to be one of those problems (Degenhardt & Hall, 2012). For the sake of finding a solution, however, this claim has to be ascertained using a scientific study that will rely on a number of methodologies and not just self-report surveys as used in the national census. The purpose of this study is to establish with complete certainty whether or not there is a relationship between economic status and drug use, with a special focus on the population in South Florida. 

Research Question

This study will be addressing the following questions:

  1. What influence does economic status have on drug use amongst individuals in South Florida?

For the study, the working hypothesis that will be applied is that: There are cases of drug use on both ends of the socio-economic spectrum and, thus, economic status is not as influential as it may be perceived.

Definition of Terms

South Florida

For the purpose of this study, South Florida will be considered as a region covering 24 counties in the southern part of the larger Florida state. These include Miami and Dade among other infamous locations that are known to have significant drug distribution activity.

Drug Use

In this study, drug use will specifically be used to refer to the indulgence of illicit drugs. These include marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and any other variation that is illegal in the Florida state and the rest of the United States (Horwitz & Bagley, 2016). Prescription drugs that can be abused are also included as drugs in the study since these are also commonly abused, with devastating results in some cases.

Socio-Economic Status

The economic status of an individual or family in question simply refers to the monthly or annual income that an individual has access to at home. If an individual is under the age of 18, the economic status of their parents or guardians will be considered instead. The socio-economic status, in this case, thus, refers to the living standards that an individual is exposed to on a daily basis.

Theoretical Framework

The proposed study is based on the theory of causality, with a special inclination towards manipulability. This theory was proposed by Aristotle, and it is stated that one process can only be stated to have been caused by another if there is the substantial proof of connection, where if the first process changes then the second one will too (Walliman, 2010). In relation to manipulation of the theory, it is stated that while one event, named x, may be as a result of multiple previous events; changing one of the previous events, named y, should be able to change the event x in question, in one way or another. As such, for causal relationship between x and y, changing y should have an impact on x even if there are other factors involved in the occurrence of x. In this study, the researcher will be looking to establish whether economic status has an influence on drug use. Therefore, the initial factor is economic status, and the event is drug use (Horwitz & Bagley, 2016). The study will thus be looking to ascertain whether altering the economic status would affect or not an individual ending up using drugs. Since it is time-consuming to conduct a longitudinal study that will identify all the other factors in an individual’s life that could contribute to drug use, the study will be cross-sectional, focusing on different participants with various economic status so as to establish whether having a different socio-economic background has an actual impact on one’s potential drug use.

Literature Review

According to Patrick, Wightman, Schoeni, and Schulenberg (2012), there is little evidence that can tie socio-economic status to drug abuse. These authors obtained data from a survey that featured both parents and their children. The main focus of these surveys was to determine whether or not these young adults were using alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. The study established that while most of young adults who reported smoking were from low income families, alcohol and marijuana were more popular amongst children from higher income families (Patrick et al., 2012). This study thus indicated that there is little to no variation in the use of drugs amongst adolescents based on their economic status. However, the study proposed further studies on the interaction between economic status and drug use on the basis that the findings were not entirely conclusive. The proposed study will thus be based on this study in the sense that the working hypothesis is that there is no direct relationship between socio-economic status and drug use. Poor people are just as exposed to drug use as are rich people, and as seen bt Patrick et al. (2012), the only difference is the kind of drug that is being used. It must also be noted that the study found young adults from poor families more likely to access cigarettes than alcohol and marijuana, and this could be because cigarettes are cheaper than either alcohol or marijuana.

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Gauffin, Hemmingsson, and Hjern (2013) conducted a similar study in which they tried to dig deeper by focusing on a wide range of potential factors that could have a direct effect on drug use. These authors conducted a cohort study in which they investigated both social-economic status and school failure, with the results indicating that school failure was a stronger predictor of drug abuse than social-economic factor. According to this study, one can argue that children who do not do well in school are likely to indulge in drug use regardless of whether they come from a high or a low social-economic status. Furthermore, in Gauffin et al. (2013) views, changing the economic status does not have any direct effect on an individual’s probability of drug use. The causality theory indicates that economic status is not a factor when it comes to drug use (Gauffin et al., 2013). However, there have been other studies that seem to disagree.

Cyrus et al. (2015) investigated young immigrant crack users in South Florida and found that a majority of them were marginalized in the economic context. They had minimal income, lived in poor parts of the city, barely had enough education and simply lacked the means to utilize their skills constructively. With a majority of drug users being seen to belong to lower socio-economic classes, it is an actual concern that there could be some tangible connection between poverty and drug use. In this case, there are limited cases where people dissent from higher economic statuses into the lower echelons of the social classes (Cyrus et al., 2015). This means that the rich often remain amongst the rich as the poor also remain amongst their kind. Having the majority of crack users in the poor side of the society is likely to imply that they were mostly raised poor. In this case, the dominant factor underlying their drug use is their economic status.

Influence of Economic History

According to the three studies above, the relationship between economic status and drug use remains unclear, with enough evidence for and against the hypothesis that there is no relationship between the two. Melotti et al. (2013), in cohort study, investigated the influence of early economic history on the use of drugs later in life. This study takes a different approach by focusing on the influences that an individual may have had earlier in their life. The perspective in this case is that while the present economic status may not have an impact on an individual’s drug use, their experiences in their developmental stages may have a significant impact on the same. The findings indicate that children from higher income families were at a higher risk for drug use in their adulthood. Therefore, a higher socio-economic status is an actual risk factor when a child is growing (Melotti et al., 2013). However, this assertion can be understood from various points of view. First, it is possible that a majority of participants were from troubled families with a history of drug use. It could be that richer parents were using drugs and alcohol and, thus, exposed their children to the drugs earlier in life. Also, it is likely that the underlying cause of the drug use is not the socio-economic history but rather some of the childhood experiences associated with living in a wealthy home. Parents may have been unavailable, or troubled, or a child may have been exposed to some physical or emotional abuse at an early age. In essence, there are many ways to interpret the findings of this study, and it remains the main concern whether individuals started using drugs because of their experiences in a rich home or there is more to their story.

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The purpose of this study is to establish how economic status influences drug use in South Florida. This means that the main interest is in economic status and drug use within the South Florida population. The working hypothesis that the study will focus on proving is that there are cases of drug use on both ends of the socio-economic spectrum, and, thus, economic status is not as influential as it may be perceived. 

Research Design

The study will feature a survey within South Florida. There are many cases featuring active drug users, some of whom have to undergo treatment for complications related to their indulgences. For the purpose of this study, the researcher will be approaching recovering drug users in order to be safe. The drug industry within South Florida is known to have criminal underpinnings and getting involved may not be a wise thing to do (Cyrus et al., 2015). Recovering drug users, however, can be found in numerous places including hospitals and addiction meetings in churches and community centers. Rehabilitation facilities are also an option for this case. The research is mainly interested in the relationship between economic status and drug use, consequently, the survey will be focusing on establishing the economic status of these former drug users earlier in their life, while they were using drugs and even after they made the decision to stop. The aim is to establish how the economic status may have influenced an individual’s decision to start or even stop using drugs. This will be a cross-sectional qualitative study based on the causality theory (Walliman, 2010). The data will be collected through group interviews, where anonymity will be a major factor for participants’ safety. The predicted result is that the participants will be evenly spread out in terms of their economic status, thus, indicating that there was no economic influence on their indulgence.

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The South Florida region has a population of about 7 million people, with a national average of 10% drug users, and the estimated population for the study is 700,000 people above the age of 12 (“Florida Drug Control Update,” 2011). With such statistics, it can be noted that while there are many drug users in the region, not all of them admit to using drugs. Additionally, considering that the study will mainly be working with people who are recovering from drug use, it can be expected that the sample size will be rather limited. Participants will be selected from addiction treatment programs both within health care facilities and community organizations like churches and non-profit organizations. These addiction treatment programs will be selected randomly, with the aim of reaching out to at least 500 participants spread out across the region. Age and sex are not major issues in the study, but the participants will have to be relatively new in the addiction treatment programs, with a preference for those who have used drugs within the past five years. 


Instrument #1

The study will apply interviews focused on establishing the impact of economic status on drug use. For the interviews, the participants will simply be asked about their economic situation from the past and the present, focusing on their childhood, when they started using drugs and when they stopped. The answers provided in this case will address the specifics of how the economic status of the participant influences their drug abuse, by seeking out any existing patterns amongst the participants in relation to the economic status during the various stages of their lives as related to drug use.

Data Collection and Analysis

The participants will first be contacted by their respective organizations with an invitation to participate. These invitations will be sent out by mail, along with all required information about the purpose of the study and the consent forms for those who will agree to participate. Once the consent forms are obtained, interviews will be scheduled at a convenient time for those involved. The information that will be collected during the interview will be recorded and later on transcribed for easier analysis. The researcher will then use ANOVA as the analytical tool in order to find the relationship between economic status and drug use amongst the participants.

Protection of Human Rights Issues

In the consent forms, the researcher will clearly state that participation in the study is voluntary, and, thus, the participants had the right to refuse or to withdraw if they were not comfortable. To protect their identity and uphold confidentiality, there will be no use of names all through the interviews, and the recorded information will be sealed to be used only for the interview and later destroyed to avoid misappropriation of the information (Walliman, 2010). In addition, the participating institutions will be provided with a copy of the study upon completion by email.

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This study will be looking to add on to a long-standing debate on the role of economic status on the issue of drug use. The study will be focusing on establishing that economic status is not really something that should be focused on when looking to solve the drug use problem in South Florida. The information provided in the study will be especially useful in creating policies that are aimed to solve the drug problem in the country and eventually the world. By eliminating economic status as a potential factor, the study will enable future research to focus on finding a real contributing factor that can be focused on to eliminate the problem permanently.


The proposed study is about the influence of economic status on drug use within South Florida. The researcher will be looking to establish that the economic status of an individual does not really determine whether or not they indulge in drug use. To do this, the researcher will be conducting group interviews with participants from various recovery programs across the region, with a focus on their economic history during their childhood, while using drugs and after they stopped using drugs. This information will be useful in eliminating the notion that economic background has anything to do with drug use. Existing information on the subject currently only fuels speculation on the role of one’s economic background to their habits when it comes to drug use.

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