Impact of Socio-Cultural Practices on Substance Abuse in Pennsylvania

Although there are many statistics regarding substance use and addiction, it is detrimental to reduce everything to numbers and statistics. Whenever we discuss substance abuse in Pennsylvania, we are talking about real people who are struggling with addiction. At the Little Creek Treatment Center, we take the time to get to know affected individuals and understand what caused their addiction. This allows us to create a better treatment program for our patients; one that is personalized to each patient’s needs. Additionally, we can better understand the impact of socio-cultural practices on substance abuse in Pennsylvania. Learning more about the causes and practices regarding substance use can help us improve treatment, spread awareness, and prevent addiction.

In any society, there are going to be widespread models of behavior. When repeated across multiple generations, these behaviors are then reinforced as cultural standards and norms. While there are numerous positive socio-cultural practices, we must also examine the negative effects these practices have on individuals. It is no secret that we are currently living in an opioid epidemic; however, researching the impact of socio-cultural practices on substance abuse can help us combat addiction on multiple fronts. Let’s begin by looking at the common causes of substance abuse in Pennsylvania. This will give us a good baseline to better understand which socio-cultural practices impact those causes of addiction the most.

Man scolding his son.
Children from homes with substance use are at a higher risk of developing addiction.

The Common Causes of Substance Abuse in Pennsylvania

When discussing substance abuse, we must first acknowledge the two broad categories that lead to addiction. These are genetic and environmental factors, and most other causes fall under these categories. A genetic predisposition to addiction is much more common than most people believe. You need to be especially vigilant if you have a family member who is struggling with addiction and substance use. Although there is a link between drug use and genetics, scientists are yet to determine which specific clusters of genes influence drug and alcohol use.

However, your family can affect your chances of developing a substance use disorder through more than just genetic factors. Children growing up in homes where substance use is present have a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder. By seeing their parents or family members use drugs or alcohol, children are more likely to adopt these socio-cultural practices. An unstable home environment and community acceptance of criminal behaviors lead to increased risk factors for addiction. Parents that introduce their children to the concept of intoxication and addiction are modeling negative behaviors. The impact of socio-cultural practices on substance abuse in Pennsylvania cannot be understated, both in the family and wider community. Therefore, we strive to improve family awareness regarding substance use and addiction.

The Link Between Mental Disorders and Substance Abuse

There have been many studies on the prevalence of co-occurring anxiety or ADHD along with substance use disorder. What’s interesting is the recent recognition of how socio-cultural factors impact ADHD and substance use. These factors can impact an individual’s knowledge of mental health problems and their likelihood of using mental health services. Therefore, it’s imperative to understand addiction and how it can be treated.

Substance use disorder is classified as a mental illness, meaning that patients must be provided with a continuum of care. At The Little Creek Lodge in Lake Ariel, we care for our patient’s physical and mental well-being. This means that besides treating the symptoms of the body, we also work to educate patients and teach them self-care. It is essential to create healthy coping mechanisms that enable patients to break away from cycles of addictive behavior. Substance use is a chronic illness; however, it is treatable and manageable.

Of course, for most individuals, inpatient residential treatment is recommended. Little Creek offers a men’s residential program that helps patients recover in a safe and comfortable environment. During their residential stay, patients attend individual and group sessions where they can learn to deal with negative socio-cultural practices.

Patients who complete their programs have a higher chance of maintaining sobriety and preventing relapse. Creating a healthy support system is critical for achieving long-term sobriety. We help our patients develop social skills and guide them to become functional and productive members of society. One of the key tenets of outpatient treatment is adhering to the 12-step program. Individuals who continue attending group meetings have a higher chance of preventing relapse.

Peer pressure is one of the main factors that impact of socio-cultural practices on substance abuse.
Peer pressure can cause individuals to turn to substance use.

Impact of Socio-Cultural Practices on Substance Abuse in Pennsylvania

Now that we’ve discussed the common causes of addiction, we should look at the impact of socio-cultural practices on substance abuse in Pennsylvania, and how they can lead to addiction. Arguably, teenagers and young adults are at the highest risk of negative socio-cultural practices that lead to addiction. To better understand the main contributing factors, we have divided them into 5 categories:

Social Pressure

Probably the most recognizable socio-cultural factor that cultivates addiction in younger individuals is societal and peer pressure. Bonding with others and seeking acceptance are universal human needs. They can be especially pronounced when individuals experience a change of setting. For example, when moving to a new city or enrolling in high school or college. In these situations, most people will naturally seek to be part of a community.

The need for acceptance can cause individuals to adopt the socio-cultural practices of an existing group. Teens and young adults who lack confidence, self-esteem, and social skills are particularly prone to peer pressure. To relate to their peers, modern youths often mimic the behavior of the group and turn to alcohol and drugs.

Stress Relief

It is well known that many individuals turn to substance use as a coping mechanism for dealing with stress. What’s shocking is that this sort of behavior is generally considered socially acceptable and often reinforced through socio-cultural practices. You’ve undoubtedly often heard people say that everyone needs an “outlet from stress.” Unfortunately, turning to drugs and alcohol can turn that “temporary escape” into an addiction from which it’s difficult to escape.

Everyday life is full of stress and negative triggers, and it’s important to find healthy alternatives for dealing with stress. We offer our patients the opportunity to learn productive coping skills through cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT helps individuals recognize and understand their reasons for substance use, and it can also be effective at preventing relapse.

Additionally, dialectical behavioral therapy teaches individuals to accept and process their negative thoughts and emotions. By using the skills they learned in DBT, individuals can avoid compulsive drug and alcohol use in stressful situations. DBT training allows individuals to deal with their stress and addiction triggers productively.


Adolescents often use alcohol and drugs as a sign of rebellion and a way to act out. Teenagers, still searching for ways to express themselves and establish their identity may break social rules through substance use. Understandably, teens deal with various limitations in their home life and school, which inevitably leads to frustration. They often see drugs and alcohol as a cool way to stand out and rebel against authority.

It’s normal for teens to seek ways to rebel or be mischievous. This sort of behavior is sometimes even viewed as aspirational. Sadly, if adolescents choose substance use as their form of rebellion it can be extremely dangerous. We should educate children that there are ways to break the norm which aren’t harmful or dangerous.

At Little Creek Rehab Center in Pennsylvania, we recognize this need and teach clients healthy and safe forms of self-expression. Teens can participate in sports or outdoor activities, and they can use art and music for expression. Many activities break social rules without being harmful.

We have had incredible success with our outdoor adventure therapy programs. In the adventure program, our patients can experience the thrill of seeking adventure and overcoming physical challenges. Outdoor therapy also represents an excellent opportunity to bond with other patients while participating in group activities. Tackling challenges as a team can help individuals build resilience and self-confidence.

Man in outdoor therapy during recovery.
Outdoor adventures are great tools for learning to overcome challenges.

Party Lifestyle Allure

Substance use in film and pop culture is often portrayed as a measure of success. We are witness to far too many examples of drugs and alcohol glamorizing an attractive lifestyle. Impressionable individuals will try to emulate how substance abusers behave. This can include copying how they dress, the music they listen to, and their attitudes toward authority. Unfortunately, what those impressionable individuals usually fail to notice are all the negative aspects of that sort of behavior.

Adolescents interested in joining the party lifestyle will typically start their recreational drug use with hard opiatesCocaine addiction is extremely fast to set due to the amount of dopamine released in the brain. Unfortunately, without the proper treatment, cocaine addiction can be incredibly difficult to overcome.

Another drug that frequently sees recreational use is heroin, which is a derivate of morphine. Since heroin is often mixed with other substances, it can easily lead to overdose. Individuals will have trouble overcoming heroin addiction on their own because of the intense withdrawal symptoms.

Adolescents who want to join the party lifestyle might be pressured by their peers to join them in drug use. Alternatively, some may turn to opiates to help them overcome the stress of socializing. You can often hear that alcohol is a great “social lubricant,” and many individuals find socializing easier when drunk. Adolescents frequently organize social gatherings entirely centered on alcohol or drug use. In these situations, drug or alcohol use is far from moderate which can lead to many dangerous situations. Overdoses, fights, assaults, and accidents are tragically common in such settings.

Man in nightclub.
Glamorizing the party lifestyle can lead to increased substance use in teenagers and young adults.

Wider Societal Factors

Regardless of the specifics of an individual’s environment, we must also consider the wider societal factors that influence substance use. In recent years, we have seen a rise in poverty, which has also fueled higher crime rates. Across the US numerous communities are living in borderline poverty. Individuals living in poor communities have fewer education and job opportunities to advance their quality of life. When you factor in the rampant crime and overall frustration present in such communities, it’s obvious addiction rates are high.

Fortunately, there are many government programs and community-wide efforts to offer individuals the resources and support they need. However, these programs are often underfunded or individuals may even be unaware of their existence. Check out our website if you want more information regarding available resources for those struggling with substance abuse in Pennsylvania.

How Our Culture Views Addiction

When discussing the impact of socio-cultural practices on substance abuse in Pennsylvania, we must consider how our culture views addiction. The broader cultural context regarding any topic can impact the practices of individuals. To get a better understanding of our collective cultural attitude towards substance use, simply look at pop culture.

Admittedly, pop culture, movies, and the media don’t necessarily portray the use of hard drugs in a positive light. However, we can often hear celebrities discuss their drug use in interviews where that sort of lifestyle is glamorized. There is rarely any serious scrutiny of celebrities who admit their excessive drug use.

There are additional problems with how our culture views substance use. Intoxication is often portrayed as humorous. There is even a genre of films called stoner comedies, that arguably portray marijuana use in a positive light. Although marijuana is becoming legal across the US, it can still lead to marijuana addiction that must be professionally treated.

Television sitcoms also commonly show alcohol use as comedic or endearing. When characters are stressed out or sad, they turn to alcohol to ease their suffering. This sort of portrayal only perpetuates the negative impact of socio-cultural practices on substance abuse. The truth is that alcohol addiction is widespread and frequently trivialized by both individuals and communities.

Prescription medication is generally seen as a necessity, but no one seems to have a solution for the opioid epidemic. Even when prescription drugs are used according to doctors’ instructions, they can still cause addiction. Thankfully, prescription drug addiction can be treated, and professional rehab centers can help individuals get through withdrawal.

Man watching TV show with substance use, representing Socio-Cultural Practices on Substance Abuse
The ways pop culture portrays substance use can affect socio-cultural practices.

Conclusions Regarding the Impact of Socio-Cultural Practices on Substance Abuse in Pennsylvania

By now it should be clear that our culture impacts how individuals view addiction. Besides a genetic predisposition for addiction, one of the main contributors to substance use is societal factors. There is undoubtedly a significant impact of socio-cultural practices on substance abuse in Pennsylvania, and our mission at Little Creek is to educate and inform the public regarding substance use. We also provide addiction treatment in our Lake Ariel facility. If you or a family member are struggling with substance use disorder, feel free to reach out and contact us. We would love to be a part of your recovery.

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