For Many South Asians, Alcohol Abuse is an Open Secret

For Many South Asians, Alcohol Abuse is an Open Secret

Alcohol consumption is glamorised across different aspects of Punjabi culture. For the Punjabi man it is the social norm to drink, and for many, it’s usually to excess with different cultural aspects only encouraging this behaviour. Most won’t get help for severe alcohol-related problems because of the social stigma or they simply don’t believe they have a problem.

Punjabi’s hold much pride and honour in their family name, they don’t want anyone to perceive them as having a problem or being weak. Since drinking is socially acceptable, most don’t even consider binge drinking or alcoholism as a serious problem like drug addiction.

Punjabi Alcohol Abuse and Support

Sometimes stresses of moving to a new culture, the associated language barriers and the racism they face mean many South Asian men turn to alcohol to cope. This reliance on alcohol has had generational repercussions.

The combination of young Canadian binge drinking and the culture of drinking in Punjab, together create a perfect storm for some of the people accessing support services. This drinking behaviour is sometimes normalised by extended family, leaving the immediate family and the alcoholic feeling almost brainwashed into hopelessly accepting the situation.

Many Reasons South Asians are reluctant to access help for problem drinking

To many South Asians, alcohol is the one thing that is helping them cope with everyday life. Rather than seeing that their addictive behaviour is the underlying cause for their troubles. Many suffer from drinking-related problems yet are completely unaware or in denial about the severity of the problem. Problems such as alcoholism, domestic violence, problems in the workplace and social disorder to name just a few.

One of the barriers for people seeking help is the fear of someone finding out. There is a stigma associated with chronic alcohol misuse and they don’t want their reputation to be tainted. If there is a problem drinker in the family what might people think of our family? At Canada Drug Rehab we work with you and your family to tackle this stigma and to provide culturally appropriate services for the Punjabi community.

Another barrier is lack of information and outreach into Indo-Canadian communities by social and health care services. Existing services can also be insensitive or even racist. Many studies show that people from minority groups are frequently treated differently and/or inappropriately by the medical system, compared with people from the mainstream. Language can also be a barrier, especially when a person does not have the words to express her feelings in English.

Substance use issues for Indo-Canadian girls and women

Conflict with parents and culture

Substance use is on the rise among the current generation of Indo-Canadian women. When they do use alcohol and tobacco, their reasons often include conflict with parents and emotional resistance to the double standard between genders. (Teenage girls and young women in many Indo-Canadian families are given far less personal freedom than their male counterparts.) Outside the family, experiences of racism and peer pressure may also contribute to their substance use.

The violence/alcohol link

Some Indo-Canadian women face violence and abuse at home related to alcohol use by a spouse or another relative. The problem is serious as the rate of alcohol abuse among Indo-Canadian men is approaching that of males in mainstream society.

Barriers to getting help

The greatest barriers to Indo-Canadian women seeking help are cultural attitudes and the strong stigma attached to substance use and mental health problems. Indo-Canadian women often find it very hard to look for outside help, because they do not want their husbands, fathers, or sons to lose face within the community, and do not want to be shunned by their families for getting help. They may blame themselves for substance misuse or abuse problems. This self-blame can also be encouraged by the community.

Finally, Indo-Canadian women have strong traditions of seeking community-based help and guidance from people such as extended family members, elders, and spiritual leaders. Unfortunately, these people may be unable to give a woman appropriate support and useful advice about treatment services.

Why Canada Drug Rehab?

Few mainstream service providers have much competence in dealing with the needs of ethnic minority groups. At Canada Drug Rehab we treat our clients as individuals taking into consideration their cultural, family and personal needs. The private punjabi drug and alcohol rehab and treatment centres we work with focus on:

  • Cultural matching of staff to client
  • Cultural, political and social understanding of client
  • Individualized holistic therapies
  • Privacy is a priority
  • Medical treatment of withdrawal
  • Spirituality and/or religion
  • One-on-one counselling
  • Group therapy sessions and peer support
  • Education and support for families
  • Aftercare programs

What to look for in a Drug or Alcohol Recovery Program:

Services need to be individualized, flexible and creative. Traditional models of counselling are often not appropriate to meet the needs of ethnic minorities. When working with South Asian clients the counsellor or any other support worker needs to understand the family structure, the community group and the issues of conflict experienced when individuals try to fit in with mainstream culture or other minority cultures.

It is paramount that young South Asian individuals experiencing difficulties with alcohol or drugs find someone to speak to, someone who will not judge them and someone who will hold them through recovery. They should also feel secure about confidentiality issues and have confidence in the professionalism of support workers.

It is important to acknowledge that every culture is changing and evolving. Within every culture there are pockets of shifting value systems. Sometimes one’s very own culture can facilitate recovery through religion and spirituality and thus make it possible to come out of alcohol without treatment through a private residential rehab or treatment centre.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse or Addiction:

Below are just some of the signs you or your loved one may have a problem with alcohol or drugs. Please understand that the signs can vary with everyone and are not limited to what we mention below. If you would like more information or to understand the disease of alcoholism or addiction in a more through way in English or Punjabi please do not hesitate to contact us at  1-888-963-9116 or at

  • Tolerance: Tolerance means that, over time, you need more drugs to feel the same effects.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Anxiety or jumpiness; shakiness or trembling; sweating, nausea and vomiting; insomnia; depression; irritability; fatigue or loss of appetite and headaches.
  • Loss of Control: Using more drugs that they wanted to, for longer than they intended, or despite telling themselves that they wouldn’t do it this time.
  • Desire to Stop, But Can’t: They have a persistent desire to cut down or stop their drug use, but all efforts to stop and stay stopped, have been unsuccessful.
  • Neglecting Other Activities: They are spending less time on activities that used to be important to them (hanging out with family and friends, exercising or going to the gym, pursuing hobbies or other interests) because of the use of drugs.

How to Access Help:

At Canada Drug Rehab we offer services in English, Hindi and Punjabi basically to anyone who self-identifies as South Asian. If you’re looking for alcohol or drug treatment in British Columbia that speaks your language and understands your culture we can help. We also provide psychotherapy and counselling that’s sensitive to South Asian cultural issues. We work with you and your family to find the right alcohol and drug treatment and rehab centre for you. In addition we work with many Punjabi speaking psychologists, Punjabi psychotherapists and Punjabi counsellors in British Columbia and across Canada.

Do not hesitate to reach out and call us today for your free consultation for yourself or to schedule an intervention for your loved one. It is never too soon. 1-888-963-9116 or at We are waiting to help you now and can be meeting with you anywhere in Canada in person within 48 hours.

[templatera id="17199"]