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How Different Cultures View Addiction and Recovery

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How Different Cultures View Addiction and Recovery

A culture is a system of beliefs, behaviors, and customs of a particular group, time, or place. Cultures may be divided among socioeconomic lines, geographic location, age, gender, and religious beliefs. As a country, the United States has its own culture. Within the U.S., thousands of subcultures exist due to the vast numbers of ethnic groups within its borders. The National Institutes of Health predicts that ethnic minorities will make up one-half of the student population by 2030. At the same time, the mainline ethnicity (Caucasian) will drop to around 53 percent.

Addiction has permeated virtually every subculture—race, gender, religion, and education level. SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported in 2011 that every ethnic group in the U.S. indicated drug addiction in some segment of its population. Unfortunately for people across every ethnic group, treatment was rare. According to a study released in 2011 by Psychiatric Services, only ten percent of the population of any ethnic group got the help needed for their addiction.

Different Cultural Views

Addiction is not limited to the U.S. According to a 2012 article from WebMD, between 149 and 271 million people used an illegal drug at least one time. This translates into roughly one in 20 people taking an illicit drug. These figures do not even take into account addiction to prescription medication, which is a staggering problem in the U.S. and abroad. The use of drugs in other countries is based on their cultures and subcultures just like the U.S. Views of addiction and recovery from various cultures and subcultures include the following:

How Different Cultures View Addiction and Recovery
  • China – In previous generations the Chinese government and its citizens took a hardline stance against drug use, and being addicted was shameful. However, in recent generations, the attitude has shifted in part because of the Westernization of the country. According to a 2013 article from The Atlantic, around 70,000 people admitted they were addicts in 1990. By 2011 that number jumped to almost 1.8 million. As a response, the government has begun interacting with young people to educate them about the dangers of addiction.
  • Lebanon – According to a 2010 CNN, Lebanon has a high rate of ecstasy and other designer drugs because of its more Western nightlife and club culture. It is not seen as a shameful action and does not incur stiff penalties if a person is caught using.
  • Turkey – In this country attitudes toward drug use and addiction are based more on the type of drug used. As a whole, the younger generation holds a negative attitude toward hard drugs like heroin but has a more relaxed attitude toward marijuana, a 2005 study from Addictive Behaviors
  • Saudi Arabia – The government is actively confiscating drugs according to a 2010 article from CNN. However, the high unemployment rate in the country has led to more use of drugs.
  • South Africa – A 2013 study released in the African Journal of Emergency Medicine indicated that doctors there consider addiction and substance abuse as a disease that needs treatment. They also acknowledged the need for a holistic approach to caring for addicts.

Other subcultures and their attitudes toward drug use and addiction include the following:

  • Gang culture – In this subculture drug use is often encouraged and even expected. According to a 2011 report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, almost 70 percent of law enforcement agencies in the United Stated reported gang involvement in drug distribution.
  • Gender – According to a 2012 report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, drug use and addiction are more prominent among males in various countries. In Argentina and Brazil, males use drugs three times more often than women, and in India and Pakistan, men use drugs 10 times more often. However, there is an exception to this pattern. The U.N. also reported that women are more prone than men to use and abuse tranquilizers and sedatives.
  • Generational lines – According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, drug use will likely to continue to be linked to younger generations, and those younger generations will play a major role in shaping how drug addiction and recovery are viewed especially as traditional family ties and value systems weaken.

In addition, a country’s religious beliefs will often inform attitudes about addiction. For example in the Middle East, where conservative Islam holds great influence over the region, alcohol, and drugs are forbidden. Non-prescription drugs are designed to lead people away from Allah (God) and keep them from serving him well according to an article from the BBC. Like other religions, however, many Muslims still use drugs.

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