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  • Writer's pictureChris Thompson

3 Social and Cultural Factors Related to Addiction



There are certainly many individual experiences that can increase the risk of addiction. Childhood trauma, PTSD, and medical problems can all work to trigger an addiction problem.


Those are not, however, the only factors that we need to take into consideration when examining the causes of the widespread addiction problems we see today. Let’s look at these 3 social and cultural factors related to addiction.


1. Sociocultural Beliefs


Our sociocultural beliefs about substance use shape individual behavior and define what is considered abuse. Taboos around the use of substances to excess or for certain groups can act as a protective factor.


For example, in many cultures, the use of certain substances, like peyote in Native American cultures, was restricted to ceremonial settings. In fact, according to an article in the Psychiatric Times, peyote was often used to treat alcohol addiction.


When people are socialized into a cultural belief system, they internalize those norms. It doesn’t mean that they don’t break from them, but such beliefs can act as a significant protection against abuse by defining the appropriate use of various substances.


2. Rapid Social Change


When there are rapid social changes, people may experience a sense of loss of their cultural identity. This is called anomie, and it’s easy for someone experiencing that sensation to turn to substance use to self-medicate.


The arrival of Europeans to the Americas offers a glaring example of this. While alcoholic beverages were available before European arrival, the rapid social changes that Native Americans experienced as a result of what happened next played a large role in shaping their alcohol use behaviors.


In the modern world, immigration presents an analogous example. Immigrants to a new culture are leaving their own cultural norms, which have a protective effect, behind them and are then exposed to a new set of cultural values and beliefs. In many cases, such as that of Hispanic women immigrating to the United States, the immigrant group experiences an increase in substance use, which can easily turn to abuse.


3. Sense of Belonging


The use of drugs and alcohol can sometimes work to promote a sense of belonging to certain communities and groups. Peer group use is the primary contributor to the use of narcotics, even more so than adverse family conditions and factors like homelessness that affect individuals.


That sense of community can also work to prevent substance abuse. Positive peer group influence is a significant aid in addiction recovery, particularly for adolescent addicts. That is due, at least in part, to the fact that impressionable individuals are far more likely to listen to people they perceive to be similar to them in background and interests.


Sober Sidekick – A Culture of Recovery


Sober Sidekick offers a positive peer community of recovering addicts who understand just how the social and cultural factors related to addiction can shape behavior. They know how it goes and are ready to offer the positive support that an addict needs for motivation to maintain their sobriety. Give it a try, and you’ll find that you belong in this culture of recovery.


Image: Freepik

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