The role of cultural and social factors in the cause of addictive disorders

J. Westermeyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


For many centuries, generations of young people were protected from the early onset of addictive disorders. Although addiction to drugs and alcohol had been well known for centuries, widespread addiction has occurred only in recent centuries. Because the human gene pool or human biochemistry did not likely change suddenly to produce this result, social and cultural factors likely have produced widespread addiction. From another perspective, the sociocultural factors that once protected our societies against widespread addiction may have become weakened or inoperative. Our social institutions - our families, schools, religions, neighborhoods, and governments - no longer protect us and our young from addiction as they once did. The failure of traditional social institutions to protect us from addiction does not mean that we must seek drug panaceas only in nonsocietal venues, such as medications and psychotherapies. Rather, we should look to those elements of our institutions that have failed us and seek to bolster them. A gradually evolving body of literature on this topic demonstrates that institutional changes can serve to reduce widespread addiction among us. Moreover, these changes can be implemented at many levels: within our families, schools, friendship groups, workplaces, churches, neighborhoods, and legislatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-273
Number of pages21
JournalPsychiatric Clinics of North America
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of cultural and social factors in the cause of addictive disorders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this