Beyond “peer pressure”: Rethinking drug use and “youth culture"

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The study of drug use by young people in the West has been transformed over the last decade by the development of sociological approaches to drug use which take serious account of the cultural context in which young people encounter drugs. One consequence is that the notion of ‘peer pressure’, as the primary articulation of the engagement between youth culture and drug use, has been displaced by that of ‘normalisation’, which envisages ‘recreational’ drug use as one expression of consumer-based youth cultural lifestyles. In stark contrast, academic discussion of drug use in Russia remains primarily concerned with the prevalence and health consequences of (intravenous) drug use while explanations of rising rates of drug use focus on structural factors related to the expansion of drugs supply and, to a lesser extent, post-Soviet social and economic dislocation. In this article, original empirical research in Russia is used to develop an understanding of young people's drug use that synthesises structural and cultural explanations of it. It does this by situating young people's narratives of their drugs choices in the context of local drugs markets and broader socio-economic processes. However, it attempts to go beyond seeing structural location as simply a ‘constraint’ on individual choice by adopting an understanding of ‘youth culture’ as a range of youth cultural practices and formations that simultaneously embody, reproduce and negotiate the structural locations of their subjects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-224
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • drug use
  • youth cultural practice
  • 'normalisation thesis'
  • post-soviet Russia


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