Socio-cultural anthropology and alcohol and drug research: towards a unified theory

Soc Sci Med. 2001 Jul;53(2):165-88. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(00)00329-4.


The arrival of the millennium has understandably created a growing tendency for social commentators to evaluate the current state of the world, assess prior developments and suggest new and enlightened ways forward. In this time of re-appraisals, we assess the current state of the anthropology of alcohol and drug research, consider its early history, examine the range and theoretical underpinnings of work done today, and propose the elements of a possible future model. In formulating the model, we have borrowed from a number of different theoretical approaches and insights not only from anthropological discussions of alcohol and drug issues but also from anthropological research outside these arenas. In examining these issues, and as a way of attempting to answer the question--where has the field come from and where is it heading--we situate anthropological contributions to this area not merely within the wider context of anthropological thought and research, but more importantly within a wider social and political context that takes account of the organizational, funding and conceptual influences, constraints and pressures that operate on anthropologists who wish to conduct research on alcohol and drug issues.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / ethnology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Anthropology, Cultural / methods
  • Anthropology, Cultural / trends*
  • Commerce
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Drug and Narcotic Control
  • Ethanol
  • Holistic Health
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Public Health
  • Research / trends
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Ethanol