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Drug abuse is one of the most widespread and persistent public health problems in the U.S., affecting 4 million Americans and their families.

It is estimated that 8% of Americans ages 12 and older use illicit drugs each month, and that every day, almost 8,000 people use an illicit drug for the first time.

Although rates of substance abuse are not different overall for adult Hispanics, Blacks and Whites (NIDA, 2003; Sharma, 2008) the consequences and stigma associated with substance abuse tend to be greater for members of minority groups (CDC, 2007; Gonzalez-Guarda, Ortega, Vasquez & De Santis, 2010; Szapocznik & Prado, 2007). Further, data that focuses on middle school age children reveal that Hispanic children often show the highest rates of early drug use.

Minority groups members tend to have less access to health care and programs (Sharma, 2008, Ducharme et al., 2007) and are disproportionately impacted by the consequences of substance abuse. Poverty, poor educational opportunities and inadequate housing, which disproportionately affect minorities, are stressors that contribute to substance use (Sharma, 2008; Turner & Wallace, 2003) and risk of relapse following treatment.

Interestingly, Hispanics who are born in the United States have higher rates of substance abuse than those not born in the U.S. (SAMHSA, 2010), highlighting the importance of developing knowledge on the links between the acculturative process and risk behaviors.

Certain communities and populations face unique challenges and additional risks for disparate outcomes; these include adolescents, women and the LGBT community. As noted in Healthy People 2020, sexual minority populations have very high rates of alcohol, tobacco, and other substance abuse (Herek, 2007; US DHHS, n.d.).

Please click here for detailed information on the science of addiction.

The consequences of substance abuse can be very serious and include:


Gonzalez-Guarda, R. Ortega, J., Vasquez, E., & DeSantis, J. (2010). La mancha negra. Hispanic males’ experiences with substance abuse, violence and risk for HIV. Western Journal of Nursing Research. 32 (1), 128-148.

Herek, G.m. & Garnets, L.D. (2007) Sexual orientation and mental health. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 3, 353-375.

Ducharme, L. J., Mello, H. L., Roman, P. M., Knudsen, H. K., & Johnson, J. A. (2007). Service delivery in substance abuse treatment: reexamining “comprehensive” care. Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, 34(2), 121-136.

Sharma, M. (2008). Substance abuse in minorities. Journal of Alcohol & Substance Education, 52(3), 3-8.

Szapocznik, J. & Prado, G. (2007). Negative effects on family functioning from psychosocial treatments: A recommendation for expanded safety monitoring. Journal of Family Psychology, 21(3) 468-478.

Turner, W.L., & Wallace, B. (2003). African American substance-use: epidemiology, prevention, and treatment. Violence Against Women, 9, 576-589.