Are African Americans Facing Discrimination from Addiction Rehabs?

Each February the nation reflects upon African-American contributions within the United States during Black History Month (officially African American History Month).

Much of African-American History Month focuses on promoting the stories of individual African Americans who have excelled in specific fields, such as Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court, George Washington Carver, the inventor who developed an estimated 300 products from peanuts, and Madam CJ Walker, the first woman (of any race) to become a self-made millionaire.

The tougher, but arguably more important aspects of African-American History Month have to do with shedding a spotlight on the discriminations and injustices still experienced by African-Americans in the United States.

A Note on Definitions

The term “African-American” represents an incredibly diverse subset of the population—applied equally to Americans descended from slaves (an institution in North America from 1501-1865 accounting for thousands of individuals and countless economic contributions), as well as more recent immigrants from every nation in the African continent, an enormous and diverse.

Defined in this way, African-Americans currently account for approximately 13-14% of the United States population.

A Note on Justice

Despite this relatively small percentage of the overall population, African-Americans account for more than 35% of all incarcerated individuals in the country (the year 2000 census data).  Much could be said in regards to the persecution of African-Americans: more likely to be arrested or accused of a crime than white Americans, which likely accounts for the increased accounts of incarceration.

African-Americans are also more likely to experience a wide variety of social, economic and environmental factors contributing to crime and drug use in current American society.

These and other injustices deserve a spotlight during African-American History Month.

A Note on Addiction Rates

African-American populations drink less than the national average, and also experience lower numbers of alcoholism:

  • The national average rate of binge drinking among all Americans age 12 and up is approximately 23%, but 21.6 % among African-Americans.
  • Young people age 12-20 reporting having consumed alcohol in the past month has a national average of 22.8%, but only 17.3% among African-American youth.

Experts speculate that decreases in use of alcohol and incidents of alcoholism have social and biological factors.  Interestingly, African-Americans also experience lower rates of mental illness (16.3% compared to a national average of 18.1%).  Mental illness is considered a risk factor for all forms of addiction.

Unfortunately, however, African-Americans ages 12 and up have slightly higher rates of illegal drug use (12.4% compared to a national average of 10.2%).  The national opiate crisis, including higher rates of drug-related deaths than ever in history, has had an impact on the African-American community as well.

Getting Care

Rehab care for African-Americans is another area of inequality.  A recent study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) suggests that care for this underserved population would do better with greater cultural sensitivity in treatment.

Access to care is also an important component of equality and justice.  Rehab works.  Addiction recovery rates are comparable to recovery from other chronic illnesses, such as Type II Diabetes and hypertension.  Until everyone has equal access to care, regardless of race, gender, religion, or other personal factors, we cannot hope to see an end to the disease of addiction.

That’s why treatment matters, and not just during Black History Month.

At Serenity Recovery Center we recognize the needs of our clients as individuals, regardless of race.  To speak with a professional, or to learn more about drug or alcohol addiction and recovery, contact us.

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