Substance Abuse and Psychopathology

Sociocultural Factors
  • Joseph Westermeyer
Part of the Applied Clinical Psychology book series (ACPH)


Comparing the psychopathology of substance abuse across cultural boundaries involves certain problems of definition and research methodology. The definitions of substance abuse and psychopathology vary both within as well as across cultural boundaries. Both of these concepts—substance abuse and psychopathology—are not all-or-none phenomena, like cancer or pregnancy. Rather, they tend to vary over a spectrum, more like hypertension or depression, from mild to severe cases. Both substance abuse and psychopathology also overlap with normal behavior and socially acceptable substance use, moral, ethical, and religious considerations, social learning and deviance, and law, so that the problems of definition within a culture become even greater with cross-cultural comparisons (MacAndrew & Edgerton, 1969; Westermeyer, 1976a). The definition of a sociocultural group is also problematic. Culture involves such characteristics as language, religion, political organization, social class, technology, aesthetics, symbol, role, and other behavioral concerns. Any one element of culture (say, the Moslem religion, or use of the horse for transportation, or polygamy) occurs among cultures that may differ widely in other respects. The concept of culture (a learned entity) is often interwoven in the lay person’s thinking with notions of race (an inherited entity).


Substance Abuse Psychoactive Substance Blood Alcohol Level Delirium Tremens Cultural Boundary 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Westermeyer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity HospitalsMinneapolisUSA

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