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Culture can significantly influence psychoactive substance use (Rebhun, 1998). Ethnicity and culture have even been called the ˇ°strongest determinants of drinking patterns in a societyˇ± (Klatsky, Siegelaub, Landy, & Friedman, 1983, p. 372).

It has been suggested that cultures with little ambivalence about alcohol (and drug) use and norms that promote moderation and integration may have lower rates of alcohol (and drug problems) than cultures like the U.S. in which norms and attitudes toward alcohol and drug use differ widely (Bales, 1946; Trice, 1966).

An inherent bias pervades studies of alcohol and other drug use among different cultural groups because the comparison or normative group is generally members of the majority culture (Gutmann, 1999).  


The need for culturally specific or culturally relevant chemical dependency programs has been widely embraced, though few studies have been conducted to determine if they produce better outcomes than non-culturally specific treatment approaches.

Virtually everyone agrees that an understanding of human service work with individuals from various cultures is necessary to function adequately in the field.

Before reading further, please note the following:

  • Information presented is based on research and also on practice wisdom, since many areas have been insufficiently studied.
  • Some material presented is comprised of illustrations or examples to stimulate thinking. With so many groups and subgroups, providing all the necessary information is difficult.
  • The experiences of individuals of the same cultural or ethnic background differ (Green, 1999).
  • Treatment providers cannot rely on generalizations about cultural or ethnic groups or about alcohol and drug problems and their treatment. Treatment plans should be individualized for each client (Chapman, 1988).



From McNeece, DiNitto Chemical Dependency: A Systems Approach, 3/e Published by Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA. Copyright (c) 2005 by Pearson Education. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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