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Recovery in the Hispanic Community: Substance Use Disorders

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — October 16, 2020 — 5 min read
Recovering from a substance use disorder (SUD) is a lifelong journey. When people have the resources and support they need, achieving a healthy life is possible.

People from all communities can have this diagnosis. Sara Da Silva, a Clinical Counselor at Anuvia Prevention and Recovery Center shares her thoughts on substance use disorder and recovery in the Hispanic and Latino community. Also, find resources in Spanish listed below

Substance Use in the Hispanic Community

Substance use rates among Hispanics are similar to those of the general population in the United States, but there are some differences: 
  • 7.1% of Hispanics have a substance use disorder, compared to 7.4% among the total population
  • 3% of Hispanics have an illegal drug use disorder (the same as the total population)
  • Hispanics report lower rates of illegal drug use during their lifetime (37.7%) compared to European Americans (54.5%) and African Americans (45.9%)
  • Rates of alcohol dependence (5.3%) and binge drinking (24.6%) among Hispanics are similar to those of European and African Americans
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Working With the Latino Community

Awareness about the unique needs of the Hispanic community is essential for effective treatment. It can also make a positive difference to help people complete their recovery program.  

Sara Da Silva, who is part of Anuvia’s Latino Services Program staff, shared her perspectives and experience working with the Latino community. Here’s what she said:

What barriers does the Latino community face when looking for substance use recovery resources? 

The most common barriers my clients mention include:
  • Language
  • Financial issues
  • Lack of insurance
  • Treatment readiness
  • Stigma
  • Childcare (especially for women)
I have also observed that my male clients typically go where the job is. Sometimes that means commuting two or three hours away. They go the extra mile for their families. Many of them are helping family members financially in their country of origin. This makes it hard for them to get treatment on time. 

Regarding language barriers, we need more Spanish-speaking clinicians in detox and residential treatment centers. For our teenage clients, it’s hard to find these services when their parents don’t speak English.

What factors need to be considered when working with the Latino community for recovery?

I’ve found that alcoholism is more present in the Latino community compared to illegal drugs. However, many of my clients don’t think alcohol is a drug because it is legal. We need to create more awareness about alcohol and its role in the illness of addiction.

Social relationships are very important in the Latino culture. Peer pressure happens in a way that may not be easily noticed. There’s also the belief that drinking alcohol makes one a “macho man.” Young clients have shared that they didn’t even like to drink alcohol. They started drinking so their friends would accept them and stop calling them names. Sadly, this is how some of these young kids start developing the illness.

What are the best ways to reach out to the Latino community for prevention and treatment?

I believe substance use education is an effective way to connect with the Latino community. Education helps reduce the stigma attached to the illness of addiction.

People tend to have more empathy for someone diagnosed with diabetes or any other physical illness. It's different than when someone is diagnosed with an illness of the brain, such as substance use disorder. Unfortunately, there’s still the belief that addiction is a moral deficiency. But in reality, it is a brain disease, as stated by the American Psychiatry Association.

What’s the role of family and the community when facing an SUD diagnosis and working toward recovery?

Substance use affects the whole community. Family and close members of the community must get involved and offer support during the treatment process.
Family members also need to seek help to learn how to:
  • Be there for their loved ones
  • Prevent enabling the illness
  • Manage the consequences of the disease
For example, when a loved one develops the illness, the family struggles to face the situation. Then, when the person recovers, it can be hard to readjust to the newly sober family member. This can be very difficult, depending on the degree of the illness. But there is help.

What has it been like for you to work with the Latino community?

It has been challenging and also rewarding to see my clients learn about the illness of addiction. It is great to see them become more aware of themselves, their potential, and their role in the community.

More Recovery Resources for the Latino Community

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