Addiction 101

Impacts of addiction

A note about culture

A person’s cultural background may affect the way they view their own and other people’s behaviour, whether they seek help for mental and emotional states and from whom they seek help.

Mental health professionals must be trained in cultural competence. These skills help professionals consider a person’s unique cultural experiences when trying to understand their mental state. People in supporting roles also need to be aware of their culturally based values. This awareness can help them avoid treating people with a bias.

For example, many Canadian newcomers from Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda and Kenya use khat. It is a part of their cultures; it would not be unusual to find a whole family sitting down and chewing khat. In many places, people see this as similar to sharing a cup of coffee or tea. While using khat may be socially accepted and its use may be widespread by people in these cultures, frequent and heavy use is sometimes perceived to have negative consequences for people, their families and the community. For this reason, the use of khat is seen as unacceptable in Canada. As such, it has been made a controlled substance under Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (1996). It is important to consider these cultural differences when deciding whether someone may have a substance use problem (Sykes et al., 2010).

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