Alcoholism: A Rising Health Crisis for Latinos

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When it comes to Latinos and alcohol, there is good news and bad news.

Good news: More Latinos have never had even one drink of alcohol (31.8%) than their white peers (15.8%).

Bad news: About 1 in 10 Latinos will have alcohol dependence at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. More than 33% of these Latinos will have recurrent or persistent problems compared, a higher rate than their white peers (22.8%).

Either way, some Latinos do struggle with alcoholism. That makes it a problem that public health officials should address.

Latinos and Alcohol: Stats

Not all Hispanic groups are equal when it comes to drinking and alcohol-related problems, according to an expert who has been studying the alcohol pattern in Latinos for many years.

Cuban-Americans tend to have lower rates of heavy drinking. Puerto Ricans have higher rates.

Latinos who do choose to drink are more likely to drink more alcohol than their peers.

About 24.7% of Latinos reported binge drinking in the past month, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

That’s more binge drinking that the national average (23%).

Latinos and Alcohol: Health Effects

Binge drinking is a potentially risky pattern of consuming alcohol. It can lead to a wide range of possible hazards and issues, including increasing the odds for addiction.

High alcohol consumption also can cause irreversible genetic damage to stem cells, which could help to explain the link between drinking and cancer, according to recent research work from MRC laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

This is why it’s important to understand the drinking pattern in different ethnic groups.

A CDC group studied the language preference for a health interview as a predictor of alcohol consumption patterns among Hispanic adults in the United States.

The study showed that language choice when completing a health survey is a predictor of high levels of alcohol use among Latino adults in the United States and that differences in drinking behaviors based on language choice for a survey are more profound among women.

Latinos and Alcohol: Getting Help

Nearly 10% of Latinos need substance use disorder treatment compared to closer to 9% of the general population, research shows. Only 9% of Latinos get the treatment they need, as opposed to 10.5% of the general public.

For a number of reasons, some Latinos may feel that rehab is difficult to access.

Many Latinos lack health insurance coverage, as the rate of uninsured Latinos soared in 2017. Lack of health insurance can be an additional barrier to addiction treatment, as can poverty and financial strain, which can also contribute to higher rates of substance use disorder.

Treatment services for the Latino population should be culturally sensitive.

Treatment might include language translation when needed. Families should be included in treatment and recovery, as large families are often part of a person’s home environment and daily social circle. Finding bilingual recovery programs that involve family members can increase the likelihood that Latinos engage in treatment.

Addiction treatment programs may be optimal when they are gender-specific and cater specifically to the Hispanic population.

Check out Project UROK!

Project UROK, part of the Child Mind Institute, aims to help youth and reduce the stigma around mental health.

On the program’s website, teens can register for a free, anonymous, safe account.

Then they can comment on and favorite videos, from comedy sketches to informational videos to podcasts and scripted web series, and access resources for dealing with abuse, suicidal thoughts, alcohol and drug abuse, etc.

“Our mission is to create funny, meaningful videos for teenagers struggling with mental health issues, made by people who have been there before,” according to the site. “[This content in combination with user generated content] will provide not only practical assistance, but also a sense of belonging, a sense of comfort, and a sense of hope.”

By The Numbers By The Numbers

22

percent

of Latino youth have depressive symptoms, more than any other group besides Native American youth

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