Hispanics are now 17 percent of the population in the U.S.; a minority still, but a significant and growing one. In fact, estimates say that the population will rise to 30 percent by 2050. As the population of American Hispanics grows, the concerns of this demographic become more important. Among these concerns is addiction. Statistics show that rates of substance abuse and addiction are on the rise among Hispanics. However, access to treatment and the quality of that treatment are static at best.
Hispanics and Addiction
The prevalence of substance abuse and addiction in the American Hispanic population has long mirrored that of the general population. However, Hispanics typically have less access to treatment than Caucasians. They also tend to drop out of treatment earlier and face biases while getting treatment oflower quality. In addition, rates of addiction among this population have started to increase.
In 2010, the drug use rate among Hispanics over the age of 12 was 8.1 percent. By the next year that number had risen to 9.7 percent, and is still going up. These numbers represent a large and diverse population in the U.S. and there is a lot of variety within it. For instance, among Hispanics born outside the U.S., rates of substance abuse are much lower than for those born here. The rates are also higher among those Hispanics who speak English. These two facts point to acculturation as an important factorin drug use and addiction. Hispanics who are more immersed in American culture are more likely to abuse substances.
There are also important variations among different Hispanic ethnicities. For instance, less than 1 percent of Cubans in America struggle with alcohol use disorders, while Mexicans and Puerto Ricans are more than twice and three times as likely as Caucasians to have problems with alcohol. Americans of Puerto Rican or Mexican heritage are generally more likely to have substance abuse problems or to be addicted than other racial or ethnic group, with Puerto Ricans suffering the most. Another difference found among Hispanics is between males and females. Hispanic women are much less likely than men to abuse alcohol or drugs or to have an addictive disorder.
Cultural Factors and Addiction
It is important to understand the reasons behind the increase in addiction rates among Hispanics in order to improve outcomes for this population. No one has yet been able to pinpoint the real reasons that more Hispanics are abusing substances, but there are several factors known to be at play: age at immigration, place of birth, country of origin, gender, poverty, employment status and age.
We know that being born outside the U.S. makes someone less likely to abuse substances, as does not speaking English. We also know that poverty and unemployment increase the risk of substance abuse. Age also plays a role. Younger people are more likely to be abusing substances and developing addictions in the Hispanic American population.
While rates of addiction are rising for Hispanics, access to treatment is not, and this needs to change. One major factor is health insurance. One-third of Hispanics have no insurance, although the Affordable Care Act is changing that statistic. Along with increasing access to addiction care, Hispanics need better quality treatment. Cultural and linguistic sensitivity are important but lacking in addiction treatment. When these issues are addressed, more Americans will have the chance to overcome the disease of addiction.