Social Cultural Determinants of Substance Abuse


Chemical dependence implies the continual use of drugs beyond the discovery of related medical problems. Clear symptoms of chemical dependence include an increased desire by a victim have more of a given chemical substance, fear of indulging in social and recreational activities, and the determination by the affected person to do whatever it takes to ensure that he or she is able to access the drug. Sadly, this may mean risking one’s own life. Based on research findings, the commonly abused chemical substances include alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, narcotics, and tobacco.

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Apparently, chemical dependence problem is currently one of the key challenges that are faced by United States. It is responsible for the destruction of lives as well as property. Many people start indulging in chemical substances slowly and this eventually leads to a serious addiction. This paper presents a discussion on the social cultural determinants of substance abuse. It also addresses the dynamics of addiction and the mechanisms that are generally used by affected individuals to cope with challenges that arise.

Social Cultural Determinants of Substance Abuse

To a large extent, chemical dependence results from the interaction that exists between the processes of development and environmental factors (Spooner & Hetherington, 2004). Ostensibly, individuals tend to get exposed to different risks at different stages in their lives. Evidently, risks may be encountered at conception, during the gestation period, before joining school, and while at school. At conception, the addiction may be passed by a mother to the child.

The same may also apply during the gestation period as the addiction may be passed from mother to child in the process of breastfeeding. Before joining school, one may be influenced by his or her associates. This is extremely difficult control considering that parents and guardians may not be able to fully control the behavior of their children or even determine who their friends should be.

The greatest challenge occurs during the high school days. At this point in time, many children are beginning to move into adulthood and are very curious to try out different things. Unfortunately, this involves trying out chemical substances.

As earlier explained this usually begins slowly and eventually turns into a major addiction that is hard to let go. Arguably, this is worsened by other risk factors such poverty and lack of seriousness in parenting. Ordinarily, the life of a human being is shaped through various structures in the society (Spooner & Hetherington, 2004). However, it is the family that plays a very vital role of determining how a child grows from one level to another. Growth and development may also be affected by policies put in place by a government to govern its people.

Social determinants of substance abuse may be categorized as drug specific or non-drug specific. The first classification consists of determinants that refer to acceptable practices of drug use while the second category refers to factors that tend to influence general attitudes and standards. Independence is one of example of non-drug specific determinants.

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Although these categorizations are quite broad, they have a big influence on individual risk factors that lead to substance abuse and hence chemical dependence. These broad categories also influence other societal structures such as families and schools that are very critical in shaping an individual’s life. Drawing from the study by Spooner and Hetherington (2004), social aspects surrounding individualism can lead to feelings of isolation. They can also reduce social cohesion and influence policies that are meant to support family structures.

Dynamics of Addiction

Addiction is a biological as well as a psychological process. Typically, the affected individuals may respond in different ways including denial, fantasy, rationalization, regression, and repression. Being aware of and accepting that one is addicted is the starting point of a recovery process. This notwithstanding, most addiction victims choose to live in denial and continue in their state of suffering (Szamraj, 1999).

Fantasy is a defense mechanism used by addiction victims to deal with the pain associated with the addiction. It is very common among individuals who are emotionally affected and have made a choice to take life as it is and not as they want it to be (Nettle, 2014). Rationalization has to do with an individual justifying why he or she sees things from a certain perspective. Often, victims of addiction refuse to listen to what others have to say and are ready to do anything in order to convince them that theirs is the perfect view.

Regression generally involves taking the victim down memory line in order to make them recall things that could help them recover from an addiction. It is presumed that remember one’s productive years in life can serve as a good remedy for an addiction. Regression generally has to do with an affected individual having to hide his or her feelings, pretending to be fine. The real truth, however, is that the individual may be suffering seriously (Johnson, 2012). If not helped in good time, an individual who turns to repression may eventually face a major problem.


Chemical dependence or substance abuse is a serious condition whose root cause is springs from how a society is organized. Generally, the society must make deliberate efforts to deal with the challenges of chemical dependence right from the inception. Families must also be structured in such a way that they can offer support to children.


Johnson, J. (2012). Obesity, Repression and Addiction.

Nettle, C. (2014). How to Recover From Fantasy Addiction.

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Spooner, C. & Hetherington, K. (2004). Social Determinants of Drug Use.

Szamraj, L. (1999). Understanding the Dynamics of Addiction.

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