Last Updated on May 20, 2021
Access to personalized alcohol addiction treatment and services is essential for people of every background. Yet, there are certain disparities that can make it harder for members of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community to access quality addiction care. BIPOC individuals may encounter unique challenges in seeking and completing alcohol treatment, and there is a need for care that is more sensitive to each person’s lived experience.
Addressing systemic barriers and obstacles, and being aware of the challenges BIPOC individuals may face in recovery, is essential to providing effective treatment to everyone who needs it.
3 Ways Alcohol Addiction Uniquely Impacts BIPOC Communities
Since the term BIPOC encompasses many different groups of people, the impact of alcohol addiction varies quite a bit from community to community. But there are certain unique pressures and challenges that can make addiction either more likely, harder to treat, or both, within BIPOC communities. Below are just three of the challenges faced by many BIPOC Americans when it comes to alcohol misuse.
1. Elevated Risk Factors for Alcohol Addiction
Some major factors at play include:
- Stress: Many individuals in BIPOC communities live with an elevated level of stress due to discrimination and prejudice. Some may seek out alcohol to cope.
- Historic and current discrimination: Generational trauma and PTSD from discrimination, both past and present, can fuel depression, anxiety, and other issues such as reduced self-image and feelings of hopelessness. As with stress, alcohol is one way some people may self-medicate.
- Targeted marketing: Alcohol availability and advertising, both historically and in the present, is often disproportionately concentrated in BIPOC communities1. This can pressure young people to start drinking, or make it harder for those in recovery to avoid relapse.
2. Barriers to Treatment
Research shows that members of some BIPOC communities are less likely than whites to complete alcohol addiction treatment2. The reasons for this are complex, but there are many serious obstacles that stand in the way:
- Economic inequality disproportionately affects BIPOC communities. This contributes to greater unemployment, higher rates of housing instability, and less access to adequate health insurance.
- BIPOC communities may face greater infrastructural neglect and transportation challenges in reaching rehab facilities.
- Lack of trust due to a history of discrimination can make people less likely to seek help. Fear of incarceration, for example, can make a person hesitant to reach out if substance abuse is affecting their family.
- Stigma around substance abuse, both inside and outside BIPOC communities, can complicate a person’s recovery process.
- BIPOC communities are often underrepresented within government and social services. This can lead to a lack of support, or ineffective solutions.
3. Lack of Cultural Sensitivity in the Health Care System
Although the United States continues to grow more diverse, cultural insensitivity often persists within the health care system. This can contribute to under-diagnosis and under-treatment for alcohol use disorder. Challenges include:
- Language and cultural differences between the patient and provider
- Differences in drinking triggers and mental health support needs between different communities
- Racism and microaggressions that suggest inferiority
- The ongoing need for culturally competent health care providers, and diversity within the healthcare system
Ria Health Supports Recovery in the BIPOC Community
Of course, individual people will have very different experiences, and BIPOC as a term includes many communities with different histories, needs, and perspectives. Being from a BIPOC community doesn’t automatically mean you’re at high risk for alcohol abuse. However, there is a systemic need for greater cultural sensitivity, inclusion, and access within addiction treatment.
At Ria Health, we are dedicated to providing addiction care that works for all people, including members of the BIPOC community. Our program is customized to each individual’s needs, and includes weekly coaching sessions to support each person in their unique challenges. Online care means less stigma and easier access, so people can get the help they need without disrupting their lives. As a company, we strive to make everyone who comes to us feel comfortable, listened to, and supported throughout their journey.
If you’re struggling with alcohol, we invite you to schedule a free call with a caring and compassionate member of our team, with no obligation to join.