Defining culture is challenging but one definition is a set of beliefs and patterns of behavior that shape the worldview of a member of society. It is a guide for action and behavior. Substance abuse is not always viewed in light of a cultural lens or perspective, in that different people of different cultures may respond differently to addiction, recovery, and support services. Learn more about how culture impacts addiction treatment.

Culture and Substance Use

Socioculturally, beliefs can shape how a person responds to and acts regarding substance use and abuse. Culture plays a key role in forming expectations of individuals about potential problems faced with drug use. Protective factors may play a key role, as well. The use of alcohol, for example, was heavily regulated by ancient Aztecs for only ceremonial purposes. Until contact with white settlers, this is how they used it. Peyote in northern Mexico was used in a ceremonial setting to treat chronic alcohol addiction for Native Americans. Excessive substance use may occur during periods of rapid social change, often among cultural groups who have little exposure to a drug and have not developed behaviors around it. Many Native Americans did not have alcohol around prior to exposure from arrival of white people and have struggled since then with high levels of alcohol abuse within their people groups for numerous reasons, including loss of cultural identity.


When someone seeks treatment for addiction, it can feel like a challenge just ot walk in the door. People now have many more culturally appropriate mechanisms set up so they feel successful in treatment. Staff, programs, and resources are all being prepared for cultural appropriateness, including the hiring of staff from different backgrounds. This can help ease the transition into rehab, and eventually recovery, if the person feels they are understood as they are, in their own cultural context. Access to treatment is facilitated by locating treatment facilities in easily accessible geographic areas. People who access counselors and support services close to where they live are more likely to continue treatment, and also be successful with treatment, post rehab. Cultural recovery is gaining more relevancy as people notice the viability of ethnic identity and creating social networks committed to supporting their recovery with religious, spiritual, and other resources that help them engage in a healthy recovery. Family connections can be key for some people in different cultures, but it is vital for everyone to have social and family engagement to ensure a long-lasting recovery. Culture is but one part of a larger puzzle of recovery but should not be overlooked when seeking out recovery programs.

The Springboard Center’s addiction treatment programs are tailored to meet the needs of each client. We strive to provide culturally supportive tools, resources, and people who can help your healing journey. Call us to find out how we can help you get started: 432-620-0255