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Consumption and crime as identity producers

Consumption and crime as identity producers

October 2, 2022

Consume, commit a crime, consume again . The problematic consumption and the compulsive act of committing crimes can be thought in the framework of a process of construction of subjectivity. This is a different reading to the simple idea that those who take drugs and steal are people who choose the "easy life" or the bad life.

Problematic substance use implies a relationship between a person and a drug , with a unique meaning and functions. In turn, for those who also commit crimes, this way of behaving has an implied function.

We observe identities constituted according to having, with repeated stories that allude to "I am" (I am someone, I am important), "because I have" (weapons or substance, ingested or in my pocket and to share). Phrases like "When I used / when I went out to steal, it was different, I felt better, more important". More "complete", we could add, understanding the abstinence of both compulsive acts as equivalent to a disturbing void , a crisis in identity and a loss of the sense of belonging built in peer groups, in the corner, in the street.


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An identity built by drug use

Failing to meet with fellow consumers represents a grieving process , an act of dis-affiliation, disengagement with the ties that he has been able to put together and sustain in that context. They are bonds united by the shared enjoyment that implies consuming and transgressing with others, which acts as a generator of identification that makes them belong.

If a person has felt excluded by their family, school or wider social context, they can, through consumption or crime, feel that it is part of society , for example under the label of being part of the "dangerous neighborhood boys". In this way it is seen by society, frowned upon but seen after all.


In the culture of the street there is something

On the corner, on the street, socialization processes occur that they have not been generated in other areas such as the family or the school, because of the crises that these institutions suffer, since they should integrate, contain, train and end up excluding.

Faced with the absence of other significant persons, new references are idealized, such as the leader of the band, the consumption partners or the kids on the corner. Belonging is created, which begins by consolidating something of subjectivity.

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In prison there is also something

In conceptualizing the act of crime as a way of (and being) someone, we can think that the fact of serving a sentence and, according to many, "owes nothing to justice" does not represent an act of liberation in all situations and freedom. In many cases, they feel that "in jail I was better". It is easier to transgress the law than to respect it , give rise to the compulsory act of crime that generate new ways of linking with the law and others.


As long as the rules and social norms are not internalized, the resolution of conflicts is not thought through the word and compulsive consumption is not seen as a health problem, Being free in society does not necessarily mean being free . On the contrary, he is imprisoned of himself, of his lack of control and his difficulty in setting limits, imprisoned in freedom of his repetition impossible to control, by what he pushes and pushes without elaboration by means of. Without incorporation of the law, it is sought to transgress, uncontrollably.

Addicts feel imprisoned in freedom, conditioned to abide by a law that they are not willing or prepared to respect, prisoners of their own freedom, with the magnitude of possibilities and responsibilities that freedom means.

Although it seems paradoxical, the transgression of the law is present within the prison system enabling compulsive acts, violence, addictions, among other risk situations not interpreted as such by those who carry them out. Therefore, they can make them feel free in the prison.

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The meaning of life through consumption and violence

Consumption and violence begin to be seen as necessary and even more valued than their own health and freedom. Behavior patterns and thoughts constructed in the prison context they are internalized in such a way that the fact of producing changes when regaining freedom is a real challenge.

Consumption and delinquency end up giving a meaning to life and for this to stop having that function, new senses must be built.An integral approach will be necessary, with implications at a personal, family, social, cultural, political, etc. level.

Health promotion, reduction of risk factors and strengthening of protective factors: teaching and promoting healthy lifestyle habits, new ways of solving everyday conflicts, changing ways of relating to others, self-observation, impulse control and emotions, use of words instead of compulsive acts. In short, no longer compulsive consumption or crimes, seek and assume new ways of being and living.


The Roaring 20's: Crash Course US History #32 (October 2022).


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