Substance Abuse Treatment in Communities of Color

Behavioral health treatment can provide relief, support and help for those who are struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction. Alcohol and other substances have been a social and spiritual element in almost every culture around the world for thousands of years. Over time it has evolved from being used in important specialized ceremonies to being used for recreational purposes. People use substances to achieve a certain mental and physical state of being.

Substance use disorder (SUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) treatment is meant to help everyone in need of assistance to overcome his or her addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions. Unfortunately, factors such as race, culture and language are often barriers that create disparities in access to treatment as well as the quality of treatment.

Over time, the negative consequences of substance use began affecting people of color and culturally diverse communities more often than their white counterparts.

Three young persons of color sitting on a set of stairs outside discussing substance abuse treatment in communities of color.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse ad Alcoholism (NIAAA), Black, Hispanic and Native American Indians are more impacted by drugs and alcohol compared to other groups. Studies have shown that an estimated 90% of Black Americans and 92% of Latinx people who were diagnosed with a substance use disorder did not receive the necessary and proper treatment. These two groups reported greater rates of continued dependence and relapse on drugs and alcohol. 

In research done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2017, Black Americans had the highest rates of opioid and synthetic opioid-related overdose deaths compared to other ethnic groups in the United States.

Why Drugs and Alcohol Disproportionately affect People of Color

Oftentimes people of color are more likely to use drinking and substances as a way to cope with the negative outcomes and discrimination they face. This can be in the form of social, structural, and economic discrimination. These people face unfair justice, difficulties accessing health and education and trauma on account of racial discrimination. This leaves people with feelings of anxiety and depression and can lead to a greater risk of developing behavioral health conditions.

Statistics showing rates of mental illness and substance abuse disorder in people of color are often grossly underrepresented due to being underdiagnosed. Because of this, they often experience worsening mental health care and a higher risk of developing substance use disorders and alcohol use disorders. People of color also often experience stress, trauma and PTSD.

Trauma is a common trait that affects many communities of color. American Indians Alaskan Natives faced trauma from forced colonization. Many immigrants faced trauma due to war, violence and displacement from their homes. In research from 2006, data showed that many people displaced from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos experienced symptoms of PTSD because of the war and violence they had to endure. This leads to mistrust in government, institutes of authority and ultimately substance use clinicians and counselors.

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Factors Contributing to Discrimination in Substance Use Disorder Treatment

The prevalence of substance use disorders among various communities in the United States is as follows: 10% Native American Indian, 8% white Americans, 7.5% Black or African Americans and 7% Hispanic and Latinx. Research from 2011 shows that many culturally and linguistically diverse communities in the United States are not receiving the substance abuse treatment they need.

There are many different factors that affect drug and alcohol addiction treatment for people of color. Many of these factors affect access and quality of treatment. Such factors include race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, law enforcement and discriminatory regulations and policies. Other external systemic obstacles include poverty, poor healthcare access and various institutional barriers.

Within the behavioral health care system, people of color are still faced with barriers to accessing treatment. Historically, people in communities of color lack health insurance coverage and therefore are unaware of the options for substance abuse and mental health treatment. These communities are often less financially well off and financing for addiction treatment is not a priority.

The lack of diversity in mental health care contributes to the absence of culturally informed treatment options for people of color. Racial and ethnic underrepresentation in medicine as health care providers can deter many from seeking out treatment due to issues surrounding culture and stigma.

The language barrier can also be an important factor. The lack of diverse medical professionals could lead to professionals who are unable to communicate with patients from other cultures. They are unable to convey important information and they may be unaware of important cultural context. This can be especially harmful to American Indian Alaskan Native communities who face substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions at some of the highest rates compared to other communities.

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We specialize in treating addiction and other co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Our Admissions specialists are available to walk you through the best options for treating your addiction.

The Gap in Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

Inequalities also exist in treatment retention and completion for people a part of racial and ethnic communities in need of opioid use disorders. In the United States, there are more than 18,000 buprenorphine clinics where people can go to receive treatment for substance addiction. Buprenorphine is an alternative medication used to treat conditions such as opioid and heroin use disorder. It can also be obtained through a doctor’s prescription and taken in the comforts of your own home. White Americans are more likely to have access to this new and convenient form of addiction treatment compared to people of color.

When compared to only 1,700 methadone clinics, people who utilize this method of treatment have fewer options for accessing the medication they need. Many of these methadone clinics are public clinics in which people would need to wait in line where they are being exposed and stigmatized for needing addiction treatment. Research has found that the majority of methadone treatment clinics are located in large populations of black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Compared to buprenorphine treatment facilities, which are located in mostly white-populated neighborhoods.

Hotel California by the Sea provides a full continuum of treatment for substance use disorders and alcohol use disorders. Men, women and young adults of all backgrounds are welcome. The drug treatment program provides various levels of care including detox, residential, PHP and IOP programs.

Clients will have the opportunity to choose the best treatment options that best fit their needs. Unique treatments such as CBT, EMDR therapy and group therapy have been clinically proven to help clients understand the intricacies of their addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.

Hotel California by the Sea believes in creating a well-rounded treatment program that is customized to each individual client. Addressing the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of addiction will result in a higher chance of sobriety and long-term recovery.