Understanding drug abuse, addiction and how the whole problem begins is an ongoing subject of investigation for scientists, and a recent study sought to shed some light on the “why” of addiction and substance abuse. According to a study published in the Journal of Urban Health, those who experience high rates of discrimination in their lives are more likely to use drugs, use them more often, and use them in larger amounts than their peers.

Haslyn E.R. Hunte, PhD, was a researcher on the study. In a news release, he said, “One of the interesting findings of this study is that discrimination is harmful to all groups of individuals, not only racial or ethnic minorities.”

The Study

Participants include more than 3,100 people of a mix of ethnicities, ages, genders, sexual identities and economic classes living in Chicago. Of these, 17 percent said that they used at least one if not more illicit substances; marijuana was the most commonly cited drug of abuse.

Participants who said that they had experienced moderate to high levels of discrimination on a day-to-day basis also reported using 1.5 more kinds of substances than their peers who reported experiencing lower levels of discrimination.

A single major event of discrimination in a lifetime also correlated to an increase of 1.3 in the different kinds of substances abused by a participant as compared to peers, no matter what their experience with discrimination on a daily basis.

Said Hunte: “The results suggest that major discrimination like being pulled over unfairly by the police is associated with increased drug use. However, we are unclear as to the exact nature of the relationship. How much discrimination is needed to see a statistically significant association and what is the highest threshold?”

Treatment Implications

The goal of studies like this one is to help substance abuse treatment providers and medical professionals to better understand how to identify drug abuse in the early stages, intervene and offer treatment as necessary. This study suggests that experiencing discrimination may be a risk factor for drug abuse and, like other risk factors, though it does not necessarily mean that the person will certainly develop a drug problem, it can be cause for more inquiry in the doctor’s office which in turn can reveal an issue that might otherwise have remained hidden.

No matter why you believe your loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, you can find the medical help that will aid them in healing when you contact us at Black Bear Lodge today.

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