Alcohol Addiction in the BIPOC Community

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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

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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 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:

  • StressMany 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 communities. This can pressure young people to start drinking, or make it harder for those in recovery to avoid relapse.

2. Barriers to Treatment

In his co-authored paper Racial Inequities in Treatments of Addictive Disorders, Dr. Fabiola Arbelo Cruz noted that the need for addiction treatment is greater for minority communities. One study revealed that for Black and Latinx groups in the US, 90% and 92%, respectively, diagnosed with SUD did not receive addiction treatment.

Another study of privately insured people who suffered an overdose and were treated at an emergency room found that Black patients were half as likely to obtain treatment following overdose compared with non-Hispanic white patients.

Research shows that members of some BIPOC communities are less likely than whites to complete alcohol addiction treatment. 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.
  • The 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 healthcare providers, and diversity within the healthcare system
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Resources for Alcohol Addiction in the BIPOC Community

Just as schools, businesses, and other institutions are striving to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive, it is critical for addiction treatment providers to do the same.

Individuals need to feel safe, seen, and understood before they are comfortable reaching out for services. It is essential that providers are sensitive to and understanding of different cultures, challenges, and perspectives.

Although members of the White and BIPOC communities experience similar rates of mental health disorders and addictions, the disorders tend to be more significant in duration and outcomes for BIPOC. Access to services is important now more than ever.

Below are some addiction and mental health resources specifically for members of the BIPOC community where patients can connect with support tailored to their individual needs. 

BEAM Community: The name stands for Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective.  This community works to connect Black individuals with Black medical providers, including therapists, physicians, addiction counselors, and more.

The Racial Equity Support Line (503-575-3764): The phones are open on weekdays from 10 AM to 7 PM PST to support those dealing with the emotional impact of racism. Representatives can provide additional resources based on your situation.

Melanin and Mental Health: This organization assists people of color to locate BIPOC therapists and other mental wellness professionals. Working with providers that understand the BIPOC struggles can help patients feel more supported.

Recovery Dharma Online: This online support group is based on Buddhist theology.  The group serves BIPOC individuals dealing with and recovering from addiction.

Inclusive Comprehensive Online Addiction Support

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 use, we invite you to schedule a free call with a caring and compassionate member of our team, with no obligation to join.

Have questions about online alcohol treatment?

or call (800) 504-5360

Written By:
Lisa Keeley
Lisa Keeley is a freelance writer who believes in the uplifting power of words. She especially enjoys writing about health, relationships, employment, and living one’s best life. Lisa has a Master’s in Education and previously worked in vocational and educational services. Her articles can be found on Your Tango, Thrive Global, Heart to Heart, Medium, Muck Rack, and on various professional websites.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
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