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Role of culture in addiction and recovery

Addiction is often stigmatized as an immoral act or a crime. But in reality it is a chronic disease characterized by repeated substance abuse that is compulsive or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. It can cause irreversible changes in a person’s brain and impair his or her self-control, as well as the ability to resist repeated urge to take the substance they are addicted to.

Disparate ethnic groups have different cultures, and thus perceive addiction and recovery from addiction within the context of different values. Not all people typically smoke pot or pick a drink to get a high. Most people unconsciously respond to cultural forces. It therefore becomes important to understand the impact of culture on such people while assisting them in treatment and recovery.

Factors responsible for addiction

Sociocultural beliefs play an important role in influencing the approach to and behavior regarding substance use and abuse. Several reasons can be held responsible for cultivating the addiction such as:

Stress-relieving mechanism – Little do people realize when alcohol or drugs become an outlet for their grievances. The overindulgence becomes a form of escape mechanism to shy away from reality and self-medicate instead of seeking help.

Act of rebellion – Many people, especially teenagers, respond to societal norms with outrage. Turning to substance abuse becomes an answer to flout all regulations and create a separate identity of one’s own.

Sense of bonding – Peer pressure and the desire to fit into the world often leads to wrong decision-making. Staying in a company of those who regularly drink or smoke increases the chance of picking up the habit to ease interaction, boost self-confidence, curb anxiety and gain social acceptance.

Celebrations ahead – Alcoholic beverages have long been associated with a celebration and now, weed parties are becoming a new trend. Such social gatherings promote a sense of belonging and make everything look glamorous and appealing.

So, people who become dependent on any substance or suffer from any associated physiological or psychological disorders feel a sense of shame in asking for help.

Addiction more than a behavioral disorder

Despite constant research on and understanding of the brain functions under the impact of substance abuse, a significant number of people still harbor negative views about those addicted. There is still a lack of understanding of the socio-cultural factors behind addiction believing that persons undergoing such problems are bad, lazy, and should be punished for their choices or ostracized and that medication or therapy cannot help them.

However, the authorities are focusing to change such thought, dispel these stigmas and establish addiction as a disease, rather than a bad life choice. In fact, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)  defines addiction as the “inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.”

It further states that addiction is more than a behavioral disorder and one must take into account a person’s cognition, emotions, and interactions with others, including his or her ability to relate to family, community and to things that transcend their daily experience.

Can cultural beliefs help or hamper recovery?

Culturally aware health care and therapies have better short- and long-term outcomes. Several studies show that the pattern of substance abuse among many minorities is influenced by specific cultural factors and perceptions about asking for and receiving help. Since sociodemographic factors are intertwined with substance use disorders, it is imperative that rehabilitation centers understand, and more importantly, demonstrate knowledge and respect of the backgrounds and cultures of their patients to have a better chance of succeeding with their treatment.

Researchers have also noticed that minorities are underrepresented in addiction therapy and have higher dropout rates because of language barriers, cost of treatment and cultural biases. For treatment to be effective and equal across the spectrum, the recovery programs must incorporate cultural values, norms and views about addiction.

Road to recovery

At times of stress, people look for coping mechanisms and some turn to substance abuse. Millions of people fight this battle every day but it is nearly impossible to fight it alone. If left untreated, an addiction can lead to devastating consequences.

If you or someone you love is facing this problem, 24/7 Recovery Helpline for Drug and Alcohol Addiction can help. There are some good drug addiction rehabilitation centers that offer professional help and viable support system. For information or advice on the best drug rehab centers in your area, call 855-441-4405 or chat online with our experts.

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