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Substance Abuse : From a Social and Cultural View

 

Substance abuse in modern society:

Substance abuse has been examined by a number of sociocultural theorists, who have proposed that people are most likely to develop patterns of substance abuse or dependence when they live under stressful socioeconomic circumstances. Studies have found that regions with higher levels of unemployment have higher rates of alcoholism. Similarly, in hunting societies, in which people presumably experienced greater danger, uncertainty, and tension, have more alcohol problems than agrarian societies; city dwellers have higher alcoholism rates than residents of small towns in rural areas; and the lower socioeconomic classes have higher substance abuse rates than other classes. Additional studies on substance abuse, have found higher rates of heroin addiction among people who live in stressful environments. About 40% of Army enlisted man used heroin at least once while serving in Vietnam, half of them so often that they had a withdrawal reaction when they attempted to stop using.

Substance Abuse and High Social Value:

Substance abuse has also been studied from the perspective of social value. Some sociocultural theorists have proposed that substance abuse and dependence are more likely to appear in families and social environments where substance use is valued, or at least accepted. Researchers have, in fact, found that problem drinking is more common among teenagers whose parents and peers drink, as well as among teenagers whose family environments are stressful and unsupportive. Moreover, lower rates of alcohol abuse are found among Jews and Protestants, groups in which drinking is typically acceptable only as long as it remains within clear limits, whereas alcoholism rates are higher among the Irish and Eastern Europeans, who do not, on average, draw as clear a line of distinction between use and substance abuse.

Summary of substance abuse from the sociocultural theorists:

The sociocultural explanations of substance abuse and dependence are supported by studies that generally compare drug use among people of different environments or cultures. As with sociocultural explanations of other mental disorders, however, they fail to explain why some people who live under unfavorable social conditions develop substance abuse disorders and others do not. Other psychological (psychodynamic and behavioral) and biological theories have provided some insight into this issue.

Some information from Abnormal Psychology by Ronald Comer 

By Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate (Health Psychology)

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