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How Different Cultures View Addiction and Recovery

How Different Cultures View Addiction and Recovery

Russia still has considerable room for improvements in encouraging addiction treatment

Substance use differs around the world. For example khat is a shrub-derived stimulant that is popular in parts of Africa and Arabia yet relatively unknown in the US. Among benzodiazepines the US prefers alprazolam (Xanax) while Europe is partial to diazepam (Valium) and boasts the highest overall rate of anxiolytic use. Iran, which has used the death penalty for drug offences, currently has the world’s highest addiction rate, which includes heavy use of crystal meth and heroin. European countries are the largest consumers of alcohol, but even their drink of choice varies with areas known as the vodka belt (eastern and Nordic nations), wine belt (Mediterranean and Adriatic countries) and beer belt (areas with beer-brewing traditions like the UK and Germany). Just as the different regions of the world abuse different substances, their cultural views on addiction and recovery vary as well. The 1994 book Managing Multiculturalism in Substance Abuse Services refers to idiosyncratic multicultural identities shaped by ethnicity, religion, gender, age, socio-economic class, health and personal interests, and accounting for these cultural issues helps produce more positive recovery outcomes in treatment.

The Global Drug Problem

Each culture does not have a singular view on addiction to drugs like clonazepam, but the homeland’s cultural tendencies can influence perspectives. Violence in Bolivia and Colombia, for example, led many nationals to develop negative views on cocaine use. Regarding the global drug problem, the 2013 International Narcotics Control Board’s (INCB) world report highlighted several specific concerns including the following:

  • Drug trafficking is a major issue in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Marijuana use is particularly high in Africa, i.e., nearly double the global average.
  • Heroin and stimulant abuse is rapidly accelerating in East and Southeast Asia.
  • Record-setting opium production in Afghanistan is affecting the neighboring nations.
  • A growing prescription drug problem in Canada led to its first national policy in 2013.

The 2012 Perspectives on Addiction Workbook also provides relevant data on US drug trends including the following:

  • Caucasian addicts seem more likely to enroll in addiction treatment.
  • Addiction often involves greater stigma among certain minorities.
  • All substance use, especially for women, is forbidden in many Middle Eastern cultures.
  • Alcohol use is acceptable at an early age in many Eastern European cultures.

Religion is often a major component of culture, and religious beliefs influence views on substance abuse. For example Indonesia is a largely Islamic country with harsh penalties for marijuana possession and recent attempts to ban alcohol. However, enforcement is often selective or ineffectual as putauw (i.e., street-grade heroin) is a major problem, and psychedelic mushrooms have been sold openly at bars on the Gili Islands.

Alcohol and Culture

Cultural views on alcohol are often more complex. The 1998 Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) report “Social and Cultural Aspects of Drinking” made several important observations about alcohol use including the following:

  • Nations that view alcohol more negatively have more alcohol-related problems.
  • Nations that view alcohol as positive or morally neutral have fewer problems.
  • Cultural beliefs and social norms appear to play a primary role in drinking behavior.
  • Beverage choices that infer higher social status are often viewed more positively.
  • Many drinks are associated with a proud ethnic heritage, e.g., tequila for Mexicans.
  • Communal drinking is often viewed as a tool for social integration and bonding.
  • Alcohol abuse is higher in cultures that view drinking as a transition from work to play.

Negative views on addiction to alcohol and drugs like clonazepam often create social barriers for people to seek treatment. Several US campaigns have successfully helped reduce stigma and explain addiction as a chronic disease, but the outreach may have a limited impact on ethnicity minorities with language barriers.

Cultural Views on Addiction and Treatment

In 2007 the Psychiatry (Edgmont) journal did a study on Asian-American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and substance abuse, and it highlighted ways in which culture can impact addiction. The study made several key points including the following:

  • Stereotypes suggest Asians have lower rates of substance abuse than the national average.
  • The study found AAPI substance abuse rates are largely consistent with national averages.
  • Alarmingly high rates (10%) of methamphetamine dependence among Pacific Islanders were the main outlier.
  • The perception of lower rates stems from efforts to hide or deny the substance abuse, which is culturally associated with shame and discrimination.
  • The cultural preference is also to handle such matters within the family, not in treatment.

The American Psychiatric Association website notes similar stigma issues for people in the Latin community, and it likewise creates social and culture barriers to treatment.

Interestingly, many cultures have harsh views on substance abuse but a more progressive approach to treatment. Several countries epitomize this dichotomy including the following:

  • Iran has progressive programs like methadone clinics, treatment charities, Narcotics Anonymous (NA) groups and needle exchanges.
  • Religiously conservative countries like Libya and Saudi Arabia also claim developed treatment programs per a 2005 University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study.
  • A United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2007 report showed that Sweden’s tough drugs laws are balanced by heavy spending on treatment and outreach.
  • The Atlantic reported in 2014 that Sweden and Norway are both experimenting with jobs programs to help recovering addicts rejoin society at large.

Some countries like Russia still have considerable room for growth, but more and more nations are promoting progressive ways to fight stigma and encourage treatment. Nevertheless the Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research journal in 2003 emphasized the need for cultural competence in treatment, and several US programs provide treatment in different languages and with cultural sensitivities.

Culturally Competent Addiction Help

Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer questions and provide information on rehab centers, recovery options and culturally competent treatment for addiction to drugs like clonazepam. We can also recommend facilities overseas, and if you have health insurance, we can check your plan for benefits. Our helpline is toll-free. so please call now.