Drug Dependence in Georgia

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The FINANCIAL — Most every Georgian will agree that there is a problem with drug dependence in Georgia. 

 

Most of them would also agree, if asked, that the problem has been improving over the past few years.  In a recent poll conducted by Georgian Opinion Research Business International (GORBI), Georgian attitudes toward drug abuse and its victims were investigated.  The resulting data show Georgians to be generally understanding and compassionate toward those with drug dependence, with interesting variations by social class.

 

In March and April of 2012, we at GORBI conducted our now annual Crime and Security Survey for the Georgian Ministry of Justice, funded by the EU.  In it, we ask 3000 Georgians about their experiences with and attitudes toward crime.  This helps the Georgian Government and the international community to make policy, and to study the unique circumstances of Georgian justice. For the first time this year, we included a battery of questions designed to gauge Georgia’s exposure to drug abuse, attitudes about its roots, and the policy preferences of the public. 

 

While most Georgians did agree that there is a drug problem in Georgia (79%), an even larger number of people said that drug use has either slightly (33%) or significantly (48%) decreased.  Georgians also displayed acceptance and understanding when discussing drug dependence.  When asked to agree or disagree with the statement, "people who become dependent on drugs are basically just bad people,” only 22% of Georgians agreed.  The statement, "Increased spending on services for people trying to overcome drug dependence is a waste of money,” received even a little less support, only 19% agreed.

 

Social Class:

Working (D)

C

B

Upper (A)

Total

"There is a problem of drug use in Georgia"

 

 

agreeing

78%

78%

84%

91%

79%

"People who become dependent on drugs are basically just bad people"

agreeing

25%

21%

21%

14%

22%

"Increased spending on services […] to overcome drug dependence is a waste of money"

agreeing

21%

19%

16%

8%

19%

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Why Do Drugs? — Respondents in this poll were asked to suggest reasons for the drug problem.  Their answer was pretty clear: unemployment.  70% of people mentioned idleness or unemployment as a probable cause of drug abuse in Georgia.  Other common reasons given were somewhat related: hopelessness (42%), and social disorganization (18%).  The general opinion seems to be that many people are out of a job, have no real prospects, and so turn to illicit substances as a crutch or painkiller.

 

A relationship that was discovered between social class and exposure, though, suggests a more complicated picture. There is a noticeable positive relationship between social class and exposure to drug dependence.  Of those we classified as working class, around 15% had an acquaintance, friend, or family member with a history of drug dependence. On the other hand, a much higher 43% of those in the upper middle class have been personally affected by drug dependence.  The upper middle class were also more likely to say that there is a drug dependence problem in Georgia; 91% agreed, compared to 78% of working class.

 

What are the reasons for drug addiction in Georgia?

Idleness/unemployment

70%

Availability of drugs/ease of purchase

49%

The tensed rhythm of life

47%

Hopelessness

42%

Social disorganization

18%

 

High Class Drugs — There is also a noticeable correlation between social class and compassionate attitudes toward drug dependence.  It may be due to the greater education of the upper middle class, or it may be that exposure breeds tolerance.  Whatever the reason, the wealthier citizens of Georgia are also more compassionate toward drug dependents than their poorer countrymen.  While 25% of the working class agreed that "people who become dependent on drugs are basically just bad people,” only 14% of the upper middle class did.  Likewise, 21% of working class respondents agreed that "Increased spending on services for people trying to overcome drug dependence is a waste of money,” along with only 8% of the upper middle class.

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This extra compassion doesn’t directly translate to policy preferences, though.  The wealthiest of those polled were split evenly on who should be punished: just the drug dealer, or both the user and dealer.  Every other social class shows greater support for punishing only the dealer.

 

Social Class:

Working (D)

C

B

Upper (A)

Total

Who should the state punish to prevent drug addiction?

Dealer and user

43%

44%

40%

46%

43%

Only dealers

54%

54%

59%

47%

55%

Who is the person closest to you who has had some kind of dependence on drugs?

Family Member

2%

2%

4%

3%

3%

Other

13%

17%

24%

40%

17%

 

In all of the comparisons that have been discussed here, it’s important to remember that the reality in Georgia is one of very disparate distribution of wealth.  The population of the upper middle class in Georgia is quite small, resulting in relatively slight representation in our sample.  This means larger margins of error when discussing upper and lower middle class opinions. However, the larger margins are not so wide as to invalidate such a sizeable difference in personal exposure.  GORBI will be conducting subsequent waves of this and other related topics in the coming future, so we’ll likely revisit this subject after the next relevant data are collected.

 

Analyses of polls like this have a margin of error that is normally between 2% and 5% with a 95% confidence interval.  When dealing with the smallest subsections of the population, wealthy Georgians for instance, this can grow to upwards of 9%.

 

 

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