Young people, illicit drug use and the question of normalization

Tracy A Shildrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The issues of young people and drug taking have a long history, although recently the topic has been debated more intensely than ever before. Of key importance here has been the dramatic rise in the availability, range and consumption of illicit drugs, a factor that, in part, has been linked to the popularity of dance/club cultures. These changes have been interpreted by some, both within and without academia, as being indicative of a process of the 'normalization' of illicit drug use. This paper reports on qualitative research data that explored young people's youth cultural identification and experiences while also enquiring into how such experiences may be related to the use of illicit drugs. This paper critically examines normalization theory and draws attention to weaknesses on both an empirical and a theoretical level. It is suggested in this paper that, as it stands, normalization theory presents an overly simplistic account of young people's drug use. This paper argues instead for a more differentiated understanding of normalization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-48
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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