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November 4, 1968

Youth and DrugsA World View

Author Affiliations

From the Drug Dependence Unit, World Health Organization, Geneva.

JAMA. 1968;206(6):1267-1271. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03150060041008

It is useful to think of various types of drug dependence as communicable disorders. This is especially so in view of the fact that in some cultures the victims of certain types of drug dependence are seen almost exclusively as willfully immoral persons who deserve to reap the consequences of their own folly. In the same or different cultures, other types of drug dependence may not be recognized as disorders at all. To illustrate, in the United States, narcotic dependence, and in certain Muslim countries, alcoholism, are seen primarily as sinister vices. On the other hand, in certain sections of Southeast Asia, opium eating and smoking are seen as minor, tolerable idiosyncrasies or even prerogatives, especially of older persons. In the United States and many other countries, alcoholism simply is not recognized until it becomes quite extreme. As in so many situations, the "truth" doubtless lies somewhere between the extremes.