Dwight B. Heath and Irene Glasser

The use of alcohol is a part of the social fabric of many cultures in the world and has been so since ancient times. There are many and varied uses and outcomes of such use, some of which are closely related to the health beliefs and practices. Ethnographers have long described these, and medical anthropologists in recent years are actively engaged in dealing with the subject in practical and applied ways.

It is important at the outset to recognize that there is much more to alcohol than alcoholism and that much drinking has nothing to do with drunkenness or alcohol-related problems. Furthermore, even colleagues in other disciplines generally agree that nothing less than a biopsychosocial perspective is necessary if one is to understand alcohol and its effects. Nevertheless, there are important implications that are specific to the field of medical anthropology.

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