Addiction is a term often surrounded by harmful stigma. Until recent decades, addiction was often misunderstood as a personal failure, a sign of weakness, or simply a personal choice, and treatment options were limited. Advances in our neuroscientific understanding of addiction have allowed us to view it in a new light and discover new and effective treatment options. We now know that addiction is a disease and that it can happen to absolutely anyone.1 You don’t need to come from a family history of substance abuse or be from a particular background to develop an addiction. Addiction affects all strata of society; economic and social status make no difference to the way our brains work. In some instances having a higher socioeconomic status is thought to increase chances of addiction.
Often associated with drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and prescription medication, addiction does not only refer to substances. There are also behavioural, or process, addictions that can be just as harmful, even devastating, to a person’s quality of life.2 Common process addictions include eating disorders, gambling, sex, and internet addiction. These types of addictions share many similarities with substance use disorders3, such as the inability to quit without experiencing distress and withdrawal symptoms, a drive to repeat the behaviour again and again despite it being clearly problematic, and the potential presence of a pre-existing or undiscovered mental health condition. Ultimately, if something has the power to influence our feelings it has the potential to be addictive.
Addiction and Culture
According to Professor of Anthropology Dwight B. Heath, culture is ‘a system of patterns of belief and behaviour that shape the worldview of the member of a society. As such, it serves as a guide for action, a cognitive map, and a grammar for behaviour.’4
In this article, we will take a look at how culture affects how addiction manifests globally. More specifically, we will look at attitudes to addiction across different cultures and how those attitudes impact each individual’s motivation and ability to seek help. We will also explore the many types of treatment options that are available and how they can help. This month’s global snapshot of addiction will focus primarily on addiction and culture in India, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Addiction and Culture in India
Modern India’s legal view on substance use is more traditional than it is contemporary. Addiction is not clearly defined under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (1985)5. The same act does make space for the legal rights of those addicted and acknowledges the need for care, but does not so easily enable them. India’s 1985 Act on substances was introduced following the United States’ War on Drugs, but many western countries including the United States have since adopted more lenient policies regarding drug use and have been recognising the importance of care and compassion for those suffering from the disease of addiction.
‘Between 2008 and 2018, private wealth in India practically doubled, according to the Global Wealth Migration Review 2019 report.6 However, the 98% growth seen during that period could be eclipsed by the rate of growth anticipated over the coming 10 years.’7 – Sean Fleming
Addiction is commonplace in India8, and with its significant economic growth in recent decades, substance use and misuse have also been increasing. Addiction remains a taboo subject in India, making it hard for those in need to feel comfortable enough to speak out about their need for help. Addiction, it seems, is sometimes seen as more of a moral issue than it is an issue of public health9, and access to anonymous, private addiction healthcare is not always readily available. Thus, speaking openly and honestly about one’s pain and suffering as it relates to their compulsive behaviour becomes a taboo subject, and those who need professional addiction are followed by a moral shadow.
Seeking private professional help within the country may be difficult or resisted out of fear of shame, or may simply be difficult to locate. Many prefer to attend rehabilitation outside of the country, where one has a chance to experience a focused, compassionate, and private treatment experience.
Addiction and Culture in MENA
Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries face similar issues to India regarding societal acceptance and tolerance of addiction. Morality is once again a point of focus and a barrier to seeking treatment. Consumption of substances is in fact prohibited according to Sharia (religious Islamic) Law.10 Many countries in the Middle East implement strict Sharia Law, where drug addiction can land a person up to 10 years in jail, and transportation of drugs can end in a life sentence or punishment by death.11 Thus, to be known to suffer from addiction is often looked down upon and real efforts and opportunities for healing are limited. Instead of seeking treatment at home, many of those struggling may prefer to opt for international care.
‘Within society at large there is a strong social stigma attached to drug dependence.’ says Dr. Philip Robins, author of a new study Narcotic Drugs in Dubai: Lurking in the Shadows, about Dubai.12 ‘Drug addiction remains taboo in many circles’, says Robins, highlighting the difficulty faced in being public and honest about addiction-related issues.
Luxury, Comprehensive Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation in London for International Clients
The UK is one of the leading countries in the world for addiction rehabilitation. London in particular can offer many high quality, and expertly led treatment in every field of therapy and treatment. Further, the size and strict confidentiality laws mean that international clients are guaranteed privacy.
London’s diverse collection of therapists, counsellors, doctors, and rehab experts makes it an excellent treatment and rehabilitation location. It is important for a person struggling with addiction to remove themselves from the environment in which their addiction developed. For those in India and in MENA countries, choosing to experience rehab in London may be a welcome change of environment, and a chance to be supported by therapists and doctors who are multilingual and culturally informed. A vast range of psychotherapeutic and mind-body approaches are available throughout many luxury rehab centres in London, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Somatic Experiencing (SE). These approaches are just some of the many therapies and healing modalities used to help clients finally overcome their addiction and restore their lives back to health. In recovery, clients do not only learn to survive life after addiction, but to thrive.