Why do so many people feel compelled to drink alcohol or take drugs? And why do so many men drink and so many women refrain? Using ideas from social anthropology, this book attempts to provide a novel answer to these questions. The introduction surveys both gender and addiction. It points out that we cannot say what men or women are really like, in any culturally innocent sense, for gender is always, even in the realm of biology, a cultural matter. The ethnographic chapters, ranging from Ancient Rome to modern Japan, similarly suggest how any substance - from alcohol to tea to heroin - inevitably takes its meaning or reality in the cultural system in which it exists.This book will be of interest to medical anthropologists, medical sociologists, anyone with an interest in the contemporary direction of anthropology as well as those working in the fields of alcohol and addiction.