Ethnic and Cultural Differences

Just as the development of addictions may be influenced by celebrities, advertising, and the media in the United States, it may also be influenced by culture and ethnicity. Cultural beliefs and practices do indeed affect how individuals view the use of addictive substances and compulsive behaviors.

Some groups still view addictions as moral weaknesses. These groups do not accept the disease model of addiction and expect individuals to manage their addictions through willpower and choices. If an addicted individual is unable to gain control of his addictive process in this manner, he may find himself excluded from the social group. In addition to the problem of addiction, the addicted individual may also suffer the emotional trauma of social ostracism.

Problems with acculturation may be a significant influence on addictions in the lives of individuals from different ethnic groups. The United States is still a melting pot, consisting of people from a variety of cultural groups originating from all over the world. For instance, there are some drugs, such as peyote or cannabis, that are commonly used as parts of religious ceremonies in certain cultures. Some of these practices may be illegal in the United States. Changes in long-established cultural traditions are required in order to comply with the law.

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Different cultural and ethnic groups have varying perspectives on addictions that may have developed over hundreds of years. It is very important that these perspectives be respected and taken into consideration when developing a treatment plan to help addicted individuals.

Alcohol runs the gamut in different cultures. It may be forbidden for some and encouraged in others. In some cultures, drug and alcohol problems may be seen as due to destiny or fate, or they may be attributed to supernatural causes. Family ties are very important in certain ethnic groups, and an individual struggling with addictions could be considered an embarrassment to the family.

These are some of the barriers that may need to be overcome for an individual to receive effective treatment. Sometimes the pressure of trying to fit into a different culture may itself lead to the development of addictions in order to cope. Social conditions such as acculturation, extreme poverty, and discrimination are primary factors affecting the use of alcohol and substances among different cultural and ethnic groups.

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