Culture and Perspectives on Alcoholism and Addiction

Links to other resources: Residential Rehab, Alcohol and Drug Detox, Telehealth Aftercare

Although it may not be immediately obvious to some, conceptualization of alcoholism and addiction is an incredibly important factor in successfully treating the disease. By this, I mean that the way we think about and talk about alcoholism and addiction plays a role in the success we will have getting people into recovery and off drugs and alcohol. Over the last 100 or more years in the United States, addiction and alcoholism have become much less moralized and much more a part of the general medical literature. Alcoholism was once seen as a moral failure that mainly affected the poor and downtrodden, and heavy drinking amongst members of the upper class had very different connotations than the same habits among poorer individuals. “Habitual drunkenness” as it was called in the 19th century, was just beginning to be discussed as a medical ailment in 1870s England, but the western world would see many more decades of the “moral failing” hypothesis as a reason that some people could not put down the bottle. In 2021, we better understand the physical and emotional causes of problem drinking, and programs like ours offer a pathway to recovery for people with substance use disorder. Alcohol rehab in Panama City, at places like Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center, is based on a fundamental understanding of the disease model of addiction and the treatment of underlying stress and trauma that can play a role in many people’s addiction and alcoholism. Historians who study the history of alcohol consumption in the United States have shown that few cultures if any have every drank as much alcohol as 18th and 19th century Americans did, and the temperance movement that eventually led to Prohibition can be understood as partly an American phenomenon.

Alcohol and drug use are, however, world-wide problems. We know from 19th and 20th century history that industrialization of economies brings industrialization of drinking and drug use. The early 1900s brought more choices and more types of liquor than ever before, and the timing of this radical change will not be the same in all places. Understanding the history around the conceptualization of addiction and alcoholism in the United States gives us an opportunity to better understand how the conceptualization of substance use disorder is changing around the world, and what problems might be in store for people in other areas of the world. The terrible cheapness of manufacturing deadly fentanyl will ultimately lead to more widespread opioid addiction problems. Problems that may have once been primarily American, or primarily western in nature, will be affecting other areas of the world, and the conceptualization of the disease model of addiction will be more important than ever around the globe.

Globalized Moralization of Addiction

Although there is a lack of intercultural studies about addiction and recovery, we know some of key factors that affect the conceptualization of substance use disorder. Religiosity always plays a role in the conceptualization of this disease, and access to medical care and medical education also plays a key role. Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs are more frequently available in the United States and Canada, with less availability in Latin America, Europe, and Australia. East and South Asia and Africa currently have the lowest rates of 12-step availability world-wide, which plays a role in the general understanding of substance use disorder among a population of people. One recent study found high levels of stigmatization of alcoholism in both Uganda and Belgium. Uganda is considered a more religious population compared to Belgium, but high levels of stigmatization of addiction disease were found in both places. The stigmatization was different, however. In Belgium the study generally found that people associated addiction and alcoholism with other medical factors and ailments. In Uganda, people associated alcoholism with a lack of morals and criminality. Based on research that has been done over the years in the United States, those attitudes found in Uganda will make it more difficult for people to get help in treating their own substance use disorders, and funding will be harder to get for programs aimed at curbing substance use disorder. In the United States, criminalization of addiction disease has been a huge problem for experts working to help people recover from substance use disorder. Populations that already consider addiction and alcoholism medical ailments are in a better position to tackle this problem in the future. So, despite the fact that stigma was found in both Uganda and Belgium, the type of stigma found in Africa will ultimately be more damaging to the project of treating addiction.

The researchers of the Belgium and Uganda studies believe that,

“Interventions in Uganda could explore strengthening legislation and research on utilization of the well-entrenched religious and cultural institutions to encourage alternatives to alcohol use.”

This is often the goal in societies with deeply entrenched religious frameworks in public institutions. In the United States, many large hospitals are a part of the Catholic Church. We have seen many successful substance use disorder treatment programs spring out of that Catholic hospital system. In places where the conceptualization of addiction and alcoholism are far from ideal, health care workers must work from within entrenched institutions to change the way a society thinks about a disease. If public trust of religious institutions is very high, it is best to work towards change from within that religious institution.

When you receive treatment for drug and alcohol addiction in Panama City at our Florida Springs rehab facility, you will learn about our holistic approach to substance abuse treatment, which employs the Hazelden model to educate patients about the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of addiction disease and recovery from addiction. No other drug or alcohol rehab in Panama City has achieved our level of excellence in medical treatment of addiction or patient centered care. If you or a loved one needs drug or alcohol rehab in Florida or near Panama City, call us today to learn about our individualized approaches to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.