Cultural Issues Related to Opiate Addiction

Cultural Issues Related to Opiate Addiction

Cultural Issues Related to Opiate Addiction

In the United States, addiction to prescription opiate drugs and heroin is on the rise. The abuse of opioids such as heroin, morphine, and prescription pain relievers is a serious global problem that affects the health, social, and economic welfare of all societies. It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide.[1] The specific statistics are staggering; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 44 people die every day in the United States from overdose of prescription painkillers.[2]

The cause for this surge in opiate abuse is driven by a variety of cultural issues. From prescription painkillers to heroin, opiates ensnare millions of people in life-threatening dependencies. A few reasons for cultural issues with opioids include: some communities enabling drug use, attitudes of apathy and even supportive feelings toward drug abuse play a role in opiate addiction.

How Cultures Deal with Opiate Addiction

People are social creatures; our behaviors, habits and prejudices are often formed by a combination of biological programming and social pressures. In many ways, our cultural biases can blind us to cultural issues that may be unhealthy. For example, substance abuse is closely related to both genetic history and learned behaviors we pick up from our environments. Here are several cultural issues to consider as related to opiate addiction:

  • Music, television, and movies often glamorize substance abuse and rarely show the consequences from opiate addiction.
  • Some social groups exist in extreme poverty and encourage escapism through drug abuse. This actually makes other problems worse because the individuals are often in an altered state and unable to find employment.
  • Some viewpoints hold drug abuse in such disdain that addicts are afraid to seek help.
  • Some religions and cultures encourage opiate abuse as a means of spiritual expression, a way to incite creativity or to explore new things.
  • At times, athletes are expected to perform at levels above what the body can do. This leads some players to become addicted to painkillers as a way to improve performance.
  • Some colleges and regions—such as New Orleans—have a history of substance abuse. This makes leads toward cultural attitudes that may look down on sobriety or recovery.
  • Those serving in the armed forces are often culturally discouraged from seeking help for conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder. As a result, many individuals self-medicate through substance abuse.

How Culture Encourages Recovery

Despite the harmful attitudes culture has about opiate abuse, culture can also discourage opiate abuse and be more supportive of recovery. Family, schools, churches and neighborhoods can encourage personal responsibility, integrity and unconditional love. When this happens, a culture of health, wellness and healing is established. Here are some examples for how to achieve this goal:

  • Become educated about the causes of substance abuse and addiction.
  • Learn more about addiction; that it is a disease and that seeking help is never shameful.
  • Find healthy ways to have fun and express yourself.
  • Serve others in meaningful ways and model this behavior for younger generations.
  • Learn to communicate openly and honestly about fears, needs and personal pain.

Help for Opiate Addiction

If you struggle with opiate abuse, please know you’re not alone. Over 4.3 million people in the United States have taken prescription painkillers in the last month for non-medical reasons.[3] If you would like more information about cultural issues related to opiate addiction and recovery, please call our toll-free, 24-hour helpline anytime. Our counselors are always available to help you. Your conversation is confidential and you have nothing to lose. Get the help you need so you can live a healthy life.


[1] https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse America’s Addiction to Opiates: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse.

[2] http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html Understanding the Epidemic.

[3] http://www.samhsa.gov/atod/opioids Opioids