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DETROIT, Mich. (CAP) - A benchmark study performed by researchers at the University of Michigan has found that good manners and positive habits are on the rise among drug dealers as well as others involved in illegal narcotics. The study suggests these new "cultural practices" may spread to other groups.
"We have shown that drug dealers can sustain cultures that are made up of several traditions," said lead researcher Dr. Mark Novelby. "On the one hand, they're ruthless businessmen who may need to break legs or threaten lives to keep that business afloat.
"On the flip side, a handshake and a clap on the back lets you know that if you need some smack, your business is always welcome, and appreciated," added Novelby.
While the findings suggest that local cultures exist in different communities of drug dealers across America, it has proved difficult to demonstrate that behaviors are passed on by observation and learning, as opposed to genetics or other environmental factors.
Researchers tackled the problem by planting drug users in areas throughout Detroit and "seeding" the desired behavior. Over time, the researchers saw 10 of these new behaviors spread and become full-fledged, local "traditions."
"We know there's no way we're ever going to win the war on drugs," said University of Texas psychology professor Andy White. "So we need to find a way to make it more palatable, make it fit into society better. We believe this is that way."
According to White, the hope is use Gestalt Therapy to create a breed of drug dealer and ultimately a similar breed of drug user that is more self-sufficient and less intrusive than current types.
For example, White envisions a time when dealers live in an apartment complex with us, but only conduct business during the day and not all hours of the night; or drug-infested neighborhoods where children play on the street but can't see the infestation because it's entirely behind closed doors.
"We aren't going to change things overnight; we know that," said Novelby. "But social learning is important for evolutionary adaptation because unlike learning by one's own efforts, we can alter undesirable behavior so much faster than that which occurs through current law enforcement practices."
The research, which was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, is published in the latest issues of Bioscience Technology and Drug Discovery and Development.
- CAP News Staff