Cultural Influence on Addiction

While there is not necessarily one specific thing that causes someone to suffer from addiction, many factors can make addiction more common for different individuals or groups of people. Some of these most common factors include biological, environmental, and psychological factors. There is, however, another factor that can have a substantial effect on addiction; cultural factors and influence.

Cultural influence can include a variety of circumstances. It can consist of the culture of our family, ethnicity or heritage, and even the culture of our social environment, whether it be work, friends, or other social comrades. These factors can be dangerous because when surrounded by a culture that condones or even promotes substance use, most likely alcohol, it can be challenging to identify if a problem exists. Additionally, these cultural impacts do not make it easier to escape common stereotypes often experienced. If you or someone you love is experiencing a severe level of addiction due to cultural factors in your life, we encourage you to seek help today.

Examples of Cultural Factors

It’s challenging to discuss common factors that might perpetuate addictive behaviors like alcoholism when it can also perpetuate inaccurate and often offensive stereotypes of specific cultures. Drinking is a big part of most cultures, including here in the United States. Tailgating at a football game, an open bar at weddings, and toasting to the new year with champagne are social situations where alcohol is inevitably present. If there’s a social gathering or something to celebrate, chances are alcohol will be available. These factors can also be present in some other cultures and even begin at younger ages. For example, countries in Europe often have a legal drinking age of 18, and in some countries, they may be even lower.

Additionally, the people we surround ourselves with have an incredible influence over our habits. A particular culture among young adults may perpetuate alcohol or drug use, especially at an early age. Think back to the 1980s. It seemed like there were people using cocaine left and right, some beginning before they even had the right to vote. There’s a culture of excitement that is incited in many teenagers, whether because they think it’s fun to do something that is rebellious or as a means of proving they’re “cool” in the face of peer pressure. In many circumstances, people try things experimentally and can quit. Unfortunately, though, in many instances, that’s not the case.

Breaking Down the Stigma

As mentioned, there are many stereotypes derived from a misconceived perception of a culture that elicits a higher chance of alcohol or substance use. Health-related risks regarding alcohol can often increase when bias is involved. Alcohol and other substances can often be a coping method to deal with the adverse effects of discrimination. Self-medicating as a result of the stresses of life in and of itself is extremely common. The addition of discriminative implications on top of that can intensify the issue. The strains of harmful stereotypes are powerful enough to evoke physiological and psychological effects, increasing substance or alcohol use.

One way that these negative stigmatizations surrounding addiction gain traction are through media. For example, a mafia-themed movie may negatively portray a mobster from one Italian culture, perpetuating a negative stereotype about the entire Italian culture. Similarly, a movie or television show may offensively portray a drunk character and happens to be Irish. This perpetuates a false narrative of the culture and makes those individuals feel that they are viewed this way; thus, this is how they should act. We effectively change the story by rewriting our misconceptions regarding addiction and cultures, which takes time, patience, and compassion.

Menacing Media and the Status Quo

There are also a lot of stigmatizations derived from cultural norms, what people expect the status quo to be, and what’s portrayed in the media. Watching teenagers on a television show drinking and smoking can make some think it’s “cool.” People posting on social media about the fun they’re having at a party can result in others experiencing a feeling of missing out on the experience. These media factors influence how people make choices regarding alcohol and substance use, and those people are often teenagers or young adults.

These cultural norms also have the power to perpetuate addiction. For example, a familiar end-of-week or daily ritual includes people meeting up with members of their social network after work for a drink. If the status quo of dealing with a stressful work week or day is to drink, it’s no surprise how common alcoholism is. If you are someone trying to break out of these toxic statuses, stereotypes, and cultural influences, we encourage you to seek treatment today.

In the same way that our environmental surroundings can affect the development of addiction or substance use disorder, cultural influences can have the same effect. The cultural factors can include our ethnic cultures, social norms, and how these factors are portrayed in the media. One of the most common social normalities in most cultures is using alcohol as a way to deal with the stresses of a hard day or after a workweek. This status quo makes it seem okay to self-medicate with alcohol as a way to cope with our problems. This common way of thinking leads many to struggle with addiction, frequently presenting in the form of functional alcoholism. All of these social norms and cultural misconceptions can be rewritten if we change the narrative. If you or someone you love is looking to change your narrative and start your path to recovery, call the Lakehouse Recovery Center at (877) 762-3707 today.