What seems reasonably clear from the evidence available is that a heroin problem does exist, and many people including myself hold the view that it has reached epidemic proportions. The combination of my own experiences coupled with statistics and estimates has lead me to the conclusion that a heroin epidemic is a reality. Even if we took the lowest of the estimates, 1,000 heroin users, out of a population of around 38,000 that is still extremely high. However, without taking in the figures from the hidden population, the view that the heroin problem has reached epidemic proportions can be justifiably believed.
The application of Beckers ‘moral crisis production’ model proved also to be relatively successful, again the availability of evidence was a restriction in its overall accuracy but the information that was gained enabled the criteria of the model to be fulfilled. This gave myself, the researcher, enough grounds to justify the existence of a moral panic surrounding the heroin epidemic.
Finally having established the existence of an epidemic and a panic, one was able to assess the extent and possible success of the panic, and the findings indicated that the panic had been relatively successful in Becker’s terms.
However, there are a number of arguments that may refute the findings of this dissertation. It could be argued that rather than/as well as an increase in heroin use, there was actually an increase in public concern and consequently social control efforts, which resulted in the distortion of the actual problem in reality. Secondly, it could be argued that a moral crisis of this nature could have generated statistics of the sort that crisis agents/entrepreneurs need to demonstrate the existence of such an increase, without the increase really having occurred. However, if the second point were put forward one would question the motives of the agent for creating a panic in the first place.
One of the leading questions that stems from this research is why a moral; panic actually occurs. This would be a useful study to compile on the back of this one. However it is the belief of the researcher that Durkheim may have a valid point in suggesting that we need to be reminded of the ‘moral boundaries’ set in place within society. We do not need to be reminded about the morality of murder-it happens frequently. However, the moral boundaries that surrounds drugs such as heroin are not seen everyday, so when the number of heroin users increases a moral panic ensues.
When producing research of this nature one can never lose sight of other factors that may have caused crime epidemics, and open mind must be maintained at all times. What this dissertation offers is one possible chain of events that has occurred in the past 5-10 years, with the help of Becker’s moral crisis production framework.
Although the framework played a pivotal role in this dissertation, it can be argued that some weaknesses were exposed. The major flaw identified was the inability of the model to recognise the media as a crisis entrepreneur in its own right, rather than merely a communication channel for other agents.
A second weakness identified lay within his lack of identifying other types of crisis entrepreneurs. For example in this piece of research numerous newspaper articles included the role of a ‘religious crisis entrepreneur.’ One particular instance was the appeal by a church minister for the public of Grantham to go to a local park at 6.30am and pray, with the aim of banishing the evil that entices people to take drugs at the park. This individual has also had numerous other articles on the subject of heroin, and runs his own group that deals with drug users.
Criticisms of this study are also significant as to how the reader interprets the findings. One major flaw could be the inability to fully explore that application of Becker’s model within the interpretevist framework, as he originally intended. Another weakness would be the lack of qualitative information used from the interviews, but this occurred due to time and length limitations of the study.
In terms of its wider implications, providing the country as a whole was suffering from a heroin epidemic, which based on the views of these interviewed it is, then the model could be applied perhaps more effectively than at a local level. Rather than making the problem fit the model, as this research had to do, one feels that at a national level the roles would be reversed because this model was intended for large-scale application.
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