Alcohol & Drug Abuse: A Psychobiological Trait In Human Societies

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Introduction

Anthropology can be defined as the science of physical, social, material, and cultural development of man, including his origin, evolution, distribution, customs, beliefs, and folkways. Anthropologists are concerned with the ways in which human groups and communities cope with the immense changes in their physical and sociopolitical environments in recent decades. Today, many anthropologists feel the need to solve contemporary problems in society, not just study human existence.

Specifically, the contemporary problem of drug and alcohol abuse is an issue of great importance worth examining for anthropologists as well as sociologists and other professionals who study factors that influence human behavior. "For thousands
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Hall & Co., p. 83, 84). In addition, the use of alcohol in any particular group should be considered as part of its total range of consumption of drugs which may produce altered states of consciousness and which are permitted or prescribed under certain culturally defined circumstances.

For example, since pre­Hispanic times, indigenous peoples in the high altitudes of the Andes mountains in South America have made use of the coca leaf to avoid cold and fatigue in the extreme conditions under which they work. However, in recent decades the international demand for refined cocaine has created a new system of coca production, refinement and transportation, operating illegally, but constitutes a major political and economic force in the Andean nations. Indeed, "this juxtaposition of traditional and modern systems using stimulants with the same base substance brings home forcefully the need for careful examination of drugs in their social and cultural context" (The Dictionary of Anthropology, 1986, p. 84).

In the same manner, in Western industrial society, a notable changing pattern of drug use associated with modern society compared to its traditional counterpart is the consistent tendency for the desacralization of drugs, as "those substances whose original use and purpose was religious or

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