Treating Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities for Addiction and Mental Health

Published On: August 18, 2022|Categories: Educational, Mental Health|

Addiction can affect anyone at any time, regardless of skin color. While substance use disorders affect a diversity of people, that doesn’t mean we can dismiss race and ethnicity and claim that they aren’t factors in addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.

In this article we’ll look at how minorities are affected by drug and alcohol use and mental health issues, shared underlying risk factors and what we can do about it.

Substance use and race and ethnicity

The journal Addiction Science & Clinical Practice found that rates of substance abuse among minorities is on the rise. Moreover, minority communities also face poorer treatment outcomes and may face barriers to treatment entry. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2019 states that illicit drug use was reported to be highest among those who identified as two or more races, and American Indian and Native Alaskan people, followed by black or African American then white people. 

Rates of drug use among racial and ethnic groups also tend to differ by age and type of drug. The same study from SAMHSA reports that alcohol and fentanyl use was highest among white people. Prescription pain relievers, methamphetamines and marijuana use were all higher among minority communities than whites. 

Additionally, a study from the Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Use of over 4,000 college students found that Hispanic and white students presented with higher rates of drug use than their African American and Asian peers including marijuana, ecstasy and many prescription drugs. 

Mental health and race and ethnicity

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Research Report Series on Comorbidity, mental illness is a common co-occurring disorder with substance abuse. This is due to the fact that the brain structures that are disrupted and changed during the process of addiction are also involved in our mental wellbeing.

Some of the regions of the brain that are affected by the chemicals in drugs are the same brain areas that are associated with depression, other mood disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and so on. While addiction doesn’t guarantee an impending mental health disorder, the relationship between the two is clear

According to the American Psychiatric Association, minority populations tend to report fewer mental health disorders than their white peers, however, the effects of mental illness for racial and ethnic groups were generally longer lasting and more severe. For example, depression tends to be more persistent for minorities and they are less likely to seek treatment overall.

Risk factors among minorities

The American Psychiatric Association lists some of the common risk factors that are more prevalent among minority populations and may contribute to the onset of a mental health disorder. 

  • Inaccessibility of high quality care
  • Cultural stigma regarding the treatment of mental health disorders
  • Discrimination within the healthcare system
  • Lack of awareness regarding mental wellness

Various other factors come into play, such as socio-economic status, language barriers and location of healthcare providers. Treating racial and ethnic minorities requires that all these barriers are addressed.

Treatment for minorities

The first step in improving treatment for minority communities is acknowledging the barriers that already exist. Increased risk factors, low treatment entry, biased treatment programs, poorer health outcomes and high poverty levels all contribute to continued addictions. 

While there are significant challenges to providing culturally aware and ethical treatment, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The journal Addiction Science & Clinical Practice states several recommendations for improving addiction treatment and mental health care among racial and ethnic minorities

  • Improved research protocols (recruiting minority participants and adequate measures)
  • Increased volume of research regarding issues unique to or disproportionately present in minority groups
  • Increased representation of minority professionals conducting research
  • Minority presence in leadership and on decision making teams
  • Improved training on racial and ethnic minority issues

All these practices aim at understanding disparities between minority and non-minority treatment in order to increase access to care and treatment effectiveness. After all, everyone deserves to experience full recovery from addiction and mental health disorders, no matter where he or she comes from.

Taking advantage of culturally sensitive treatment

You deserve personalized, professional and sensitive care. Find what you’re looking for with Pyramid Healthcare. Pyramid Healthcare employs evidence-based research to ensure that your care is effective at bringing you closer to recovery. Call today to schedule an appointment.

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