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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 203142 Find in a Library
Title: Ethnographic Lessons on Substance Use and Substance Abusers
Journal: Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse  Volume:2  Issue:2  Dated:2003  Pages:67-88
Author(s): Peter L. Myers Ph.D.; Victor B. Stolberg M.A.
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 22
Type: Survey (Cross-Cultural)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article introduces broadly comparative ethnographic studies on the role of psychoactive substance use.
Abstract: Major contributions of the anthropological approach to the comparative study of psychoactive substance use are outlined. It is believed that ethnographic research is useful in determining aspects of substance use that might otherwise be hidden. Substance use is an integral part of social life in a large proportion of cultures. There are three general points that can be made about the integration of substance use and culture. These have to do, respectively, with its ritualization, its public nature, and the relative scarcity of problematic substance use in small-scale, traditional societies. Beliefs about alcohol and inebriety are socially learned. Drinking is viewed as a respite from confinement by manual labor, drudgery, and poverty. Some populations around the world have habitual drunkenness with little aggression, others show aggression only in specific drinking contexts or against selected categories of drinking companions. The study of cultural frameworks for alcohol and other drug use requires attention to a multiplicity of demographic variables, including regional subgroups, class, age, locale, acculturation/generation within ethnicity, and other changes over time. Ethnography, based on careful observations, can document the varied roles of alcohol and other forms of psychoactive substance use within the context of particular cultures. There is a vast ethnographic literature of groups from across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America that can be drawn upon to better understand this phenomenon. It is clear that intoxicated behavior and intoxicated roles are culturally shaped and that there is thus a cultural construction of the abuser. The anthropological perspective instructs the humanization of the drug user, and avoidance of the use of stereotypes. 78 references
Main Term(s): Behavior patterns; Drug use
Index Term(s): Alcohol abuse; Behavior typologies; Behavioral and Social Sciences; Cross-cultural theories; Societal norms; Society-crime relationships
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