Culture, Ethnicity, Substance Use, and Substance Use Disorders

Diana DiNitto

in Social Work

ISBN: 9780195389678
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:
Culture, Ethnicity, Substance Use, and Substance Use Disorders

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Individuals in the United States who develop alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems or disorders come from all walks of life, including different ethnic and cultural groups. These different groups often vary in their attitudes and norms regarding AOD use and in their rates of alcohol and drug use problems or disorders (abuse and dependence). The terms “culture” and “ethnicity” are used in this bibliography rather than “race.” “Race” is a term that lacks scientific rigor and that is often used incorrectly to imply that people can be divided into meaningful groups based on some set of physical characteristics, whereas “culture” and “ethnicity” connote that people share a common ancestry, language, and norms or customs. People of virtually every ethnic and cultural group reside in the United States. Many of them have ancestors who hail from European countries, and these countries have different traditions of alcohol use as well as different attitudes and policies about the use of other substances, such as marijuana. A substantial number of people in the United States also identify as people of color, sometimes referred to as minorities, because they are fewer in number than those who identify as whites of European ancestry. These groups include American Indians and Alaska Natives, or First Nations Peoples; African and other black Americans; and Asian (including South and Southeast Asian) and Pacific Islander Americans. A vast literature has developed of theories purporting to explain the etiology, or factors underlying or related to substance use disorders. Among the many theories used to explain why some groups are more prone or less prone to AOD disorders is a compelling literature on culture and ethnicity as sociological explanations of these disorders. Some literature also suggests biological, or genetic, explanations for substance use disorders among certain ethnic groups. This article includes resources to assist readers in better understanding the relationship of ethnicity and culture in the United States to substance use, especially substance use problems and disorders, such as alcohol or drug abuse and dependence. However, no single explanation will likely suffice to explain the origin of substance use disorders, and individual variation may be as important as more general biological, psychological, or sociological explanations. In particular, this bibliography focuses on people of color in the United States, because, as in other areas of social work practice, more attention is being paid to groups that have been underserved and to culturally relevant approaches that may better assist people who develop problems such as AOD disorders. Readers are also cautioned to refrain from overgeneralizing about members of any ethnic or cultural group and to remember that any account of AOD use by members of a particular ethnic group must be read in the context of who wrote it and the purposes for which the information is intended or has been used. Others (e.g., members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered communities and people with disabilities) have also been referred to as cultural groups, but doing justice to these groups would require separate bibliographies.

Article.  6156 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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