The Culture of Addiction – Part 2

There are numerous factors that greatly impact addiction and addiction recovery in varying individuals. Psychological and biological factors are often the two most discussed – co-occurring and underlying psychological disorders largely affect addiction, and genetic predisposition is a major contributing factor in the bulk of addicts and alcoholics across the country. However, while culture plays a major role in the addictive nature of men and women nationwide, sociological influences are frequently overlooked or touched upon in less detail. Culture causes entire groups of people to be far more vulnerable to addiction than others. For example, Native Americans tend to be especially susceptible to alcoholism. This has been thought to be in large part because of their marginalized social status as US citizens. Stabilizing forces within Native American communities were devastated when their native land was essentially invaded and stolen by foreign forces. When an entire group of individuals experiences a traumatic event such as this simultaneously, one that deeply impacts each member of the community on a similar plane, it is not uncommon for the culture as a whole to shift towards destructive and substance-related coping methods and harmful communal practice.

Socio-Culture Influences on Addiction and Addiction Treatment

Culture in this sense is used to reference a particular group’s learned and passed down system and pattern of beliefs and values, all of which guide the behaviors and social interactions of group members. It may be difficult to comprehend the idea that a specific traumatic event that happened to a group of people hundreds of years ago can still impact them culturally in the present day. However, culture is passed down through families, and families that may have experienced systematic oppression in a historical context are likely to pass down feelings of hopelessness, mistrust, despair, and loss through the generations as part of what could be considered familial tradition. The pessimistic notion that the world is an unsafe and iniquitous place will be passed down from parents to children for hundreds of years.

Culture and Addiction – Family Matters

Because children are unable to escape these sociological influences, the only hope of altering long-standing patterns of hopelessness and victimization is a complete modification of outlook and belief – a careful and aware re-interpretation. Families are one of the three main ways that addiction is passed down from a socio-cultural standpoint – the other two ways being social supports and structures and culture in its entirety. For a closer look at how social structures and support systems affect addiction from a cultural standpoint, be sure to look for Part 3 on Monday!


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