The word ‘Culture’ has numerous meanings with no universal academic consensus about what is contained within its terminology. In layman’s terms it generally pertains to the characteristic architecture, ‘the arts’ and the customary behaviours within a society, which typify that society’s identity and way of life (Storey, 2009; Inglis, 2005). Its derivation from the Latin ‘Cultura’, meaning ‘growing’ and ‘cultivation’, unites definitions with the association of something that requires, to some degree, to be collectively formed, supported and maintained. Although ‘substance use’ could refer to the use of anything that can be absorbed into the body – foodstuffs, seasonings, medications, body-enhancing drugs and chemicals as well as illicit and licit psychoactive drugs – this essay focuses on the purposeful use of psychoactive drugs. It proposes that, despite research collating an array of evidence regarding connections between culture and substance use, we have not yet gained sufficient understanding to do more than hypothesize about the intricacies of this relationship. It will encompass various uses of the word culture, evaluate how aspects of culture can influence psychoactive drug use and critically assess what we know about this relationship and what still requires to be understood. Although the environment we live in is often considered to be influential to drug use patterns (Xu et al, 2007; Alexander et al, 1981), it will not be directly discussed as it does not constitute part of culture but rather contributes to culture formation (as do religious beliefs) and perhaps can be seen as the canvas on which culture becomes formed: through our interaction with it and with those who share it.
Research about the relationship between substance use and cultural artefacts and the arts tends to look at the influence of substance use on popular and high culture in specific... [continues]
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