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Alcohol Abuse in Different Cultures - What is the Norm?

Updated on February 24, 2016

A Normal Street Scene in Crimea

This amazing picture is taken at Sep 26th, 2013 in Crimea. I just came back from shopping when I saw this man lying in the middle of this planter. The public is used to this kind of intoxication.
This amazing picture is taken at Sep 26th, 2013 in Crimea. I just came back from shopping when I saw this man lying in the middle of this planter. The public is used to this kind of intoxication. | Source

Nature versus Nurture

Is alcoholism inherited from ancestors or is it cultural rooted? Here are some facts:

  • Research has shown there is a relation between genetic predisposition and getting alcohol problems.
  • For sons of alcohol dependent fathers the genetic relation appears to be stronger than for daughters.
  • Researchers don't know exactly how much larger the chance is on developing alcoholism with alcohol dependent parents, but some researchers claim more than 50%!
  • Raising in an environment with a lot of alcohol abuse with unpredictable behaviour of the people where you depend from, can make you unsure in yourself. An unhappy youth can play a role in developing alcoholism at a later age.
  • Seeing parents drinking from young age on, makes you get used to the image of drinking and drunken behaviour.

It looks to be very hard to allocate the proportion of nature and nurture when it comes to alcoholism.

7 Stages of Intoxication

Amount of Glasses*
Increasing Talkativeness
Double tongue
Unconsciousness or coma

*330ml Beer, 150 ml Wine, 35 cc Liquor.

**Effects have a delay of approx. 30 minutes and can differ depending of the weight of the person.

In Russia even the mice are alcoholics. The mouse is in stadium 7!
In Russia even the mice are alcoholics. The mouse is in stadium 7!

How much glasses alcohol do you drink per week? (don't worry, it's anonymous)

See results

Definition of an Alcoholic

When someone drinks daily an average amount of 3 glasses or more, the person in question can be defined as an alcoholic.

This French idyll looks like pure happiness, only the French belong to the largest alcoholics of the world.
This French idyll looks like pure happiness, only the French belong to the largest alcoholics of the world.


From Saudi-Arabia, Scandinavia, France to Russia and Ukraine, in all cultures alcohol is approached in another way. Consumption of alcohol has a different purpose.

  • Saudi-Arabia: It is strictly forbidden to sell and consume alcohol - alcoholism rates are very low and belong to the lowest in the world.
  • Scandinavia: It is not forbidden to drink, the government made the prices sky-high. Liquor and even wine must be ordered which can take a week to deliver. Most countryside Scandinavians produce their own liquor from the orchard harvest. Scandinavians have the tradition of uncontrollable drinking while alcoholism rates are below the global average (source: my Norwegian friend)
  • France: Drinking alcohol is part of the daily culture. Alcohol is available in a wide variety of products and the prices are low. Alcoholism is a serious problem in France.
  • Russia and Ukraine: Beer and liquor are a common picture on the street. Drunken people are everywhere and at all times of the day. Drinking large amounts is an accepted part of the culture. Alcohol is amazingly cheap. Alcoholism is the major problem and the number one killer among men.

The relation between prices and alcoholism isn’t difficult to discover. Low prices together with availability on every street corner encourages alcoholism.


This image is unresisting especially when it's summertime.
This image is unresisting especially when it's summertime.

Culture, Culture and Culture

Alcoholism is stronger connected to culture than to heredity. The easier a culture accepts and sells alcohol, the easier an alcoholic develops. it is quite simple.

Alcoholism is also strongly connected to having private problems, mental problems and/or hopelessness.

Alcohol is cheap in Ukraine, but the salaries are also very low - average $150 per month. One litre Beer cost around $1, one litre cheap Vodka costs around $5. People easily drink themselves into a delirium (stadium 5 to 7), only it needs a major part of the salaries - much more than in Western countries.

The average alcohol consumption in Ukraine takes between 10-20% of the average salary of a worker. If this would be the figure in for example Germany the alcoholic would consume every day around 8 litres of Beer. So, in Ukraine alcohol has a much higher priority than in most other countries. It is an unbreakable part of the culture and consumption of large amounts of alcohol is an accepted part of daily life. I often heard the phrase: "I cannot work tomorrow because I'm going to drink with my friends".

What makes an alcoholic is culture and not heredity.

My Conclusion

All the researches about alcoholism are very interesting - is it nurture or nature, but if to look at the cultures and what enormous effect acceptance vs. punishments, prices and availability directly have on alcohol consumption, the conclusion is very simple. It is much, much more cultural than genetic. Perhaps there is an 'alcohol-aversion-gene' instead of an 'alcohol-gene'. This could explain why some people are immune in alcoholic cultures.

You can speak of families/friends as a micro-culture and for countries as a macro-culture.


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    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Europe

      Thank you for your comment, Mike. I will try to keep up the good work. I saw you studied in Amsterdam :) Hope you had a good time!

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 

      7 years ago from London

      Very interesting hub and i especially like the way you are thinking, keep up the good work!!

    • Buildreps profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Europe

      Thanks @gsidley for your comment.

    • gsidley profile image

      Dr. Gary L. Sidley 

      7 years ago from Lancashire, England

      I totally agree with your conclusion - (but don't be surprised if you get people on here telling you alcoholism is a genetic brain disease).


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