Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Addiction Should be normalized

The Coronavirus Disease-19 pandemic has underlined the significant racial health disparities in the country. Minorities have experienced worse outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic, continue to die at a significant rate compared to white Americans.

They also suffer disproportionately from various chronic and acute illnesses. These huge disparities are especially stark in the field of drug and alcohol consumption and the disorders the follow, where entrenched disciplinary approaches have aggravated stigma and made it very hard to implement the right and necessary medical care.

Abundant information shows that minorities have been disproportionately harmed by years of addressing substance use as a crime instead of as a matter of public health. We all know for many years that addiction is considered a serious medical condition: a very treatable brain disorder.

To find out more about treatment to this kind of illness, click here for more info.

It is not a character flaw or some form of social deviance. But despite the immense evidence supporting this position, substance addiction continues to be penalized and criminalized. The United States needs to take a more public health approach to this problem now, in the interest of both health equity and population welfare or health.

Inequitable enforcement

Despite the fact that statistics differ by substance type, overall, every individual, no matter what their race, age, or social status, does not significantly differ in their illegal substance use, but the legal consequences some groups of people face are usually pretty different.

For instance, even though they use marijuana at similar rates, people of color were nearly four times more likely to get penalized or arrested for cannabis possession compared to white people. Of the 280,000 individuals imprisoned in the country for narcotics offenses in 2013, at least 50% were Latino or African Americans, even though together, these groups of individuals accounted for about one-fourth of the United States population.

During the early days of the opioid problem, arrests for heroin hugely exceeded those for prescription opioids that white people predominantly used; even the prescription opioids were widely abused compared to heroin.

Click to find out more about opioid overdose. It is well known that during the cocaine epidemic in the 80s, harsher penalties were enforced for freebase or crack cocaine, which had high rates of consumption in communities, minorities or People of Color are living in, compared to its powdered counterpart, even though these two are the same drug. These are just some examples of the type of racial discrimination that has been associated with narcotics laws and how it is implemented.

Ineffective punishment

Drug abuse or use continues to be penalized and criminalized, despite that punishing users does not ameliorate disorders associated with substance use or related issues. One analysis found no significant relationship between drug imprisonment rates and indicators of narcotics issues: arrests, overdose deaths, and self-reported substance use.

Imprisonment, whether for use or other offenses, usually leads to higher risks of overdose after the individual is released. More than 50% of individuals in prison have untreated drug use disorders, and illegal medication or substance consumption greatly increases after imprisonment. When it involves untreated opioid addiction disorders, relapse to substance use can be dangerous, even fatal, because of loss of opioid tolerance that could happen while the individual is in prison.

Inequitable access to various treatment methods

While the opioid problem has triggered some attempts to move away from criminalizing or punishing addiction as a matter of public health, applications of public health strategies to drug abuse remain unevenly distributed by ethnicity or race.

Compared to White individuals, Hispanics and Black Americans are more likely to be penalized after narcotics arrests than to be redirected into good treatment facilities such as Skyward Alcohol Treatment or other narcotics and alcohol treatment programs.

Also, according to 2018 studies, African Americans look for addiction treatment-experienced delays entering treatment facilities and programs compared to White individuals, leading to significant progression of poorer treatment outcomes, drug and alcohol consumption disorders, as well as increased overdose rates. These kinds of delays should not be attributed to financial or socioeconomic status alone.

Research has shown that Black or Hispanic youths with narcotics or alcohol use disorders are less likely compared to their White counterparts to be prescribed treatment. Minority patients with addiction disorders are less likely to receive addiction medications than their White counterparts.