How alcohol affects minority groups and special populations
Being a disease that affects individuals in a number of very profound ways, it’s difficult not to focus on those specific physical, psychological, and even spiritual effects. This prejudice toward the micro rather than the macro effects of addiction is understandable since we experience things individually, even when the experience is something that affects us on a national or global scale. It becomes quite difficult to see past things like the loss of physical health, the increasingly self-destructive behaviors, emotional volatility, disinterest in what were previously important relationships, and a lack of regard for obligations and responsibilities. However, when you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, you can begin to see how this disease affects larger populations of people, and in many cases this level of effect involves the perpetuation and continued accumulation of developing substance abuse problems.
The case is even more complicated when it comes to alcohol since this is a substance that’s arguably more dangerous than any other, but which remains legal to product, distribute, obtain, and consume. This level of availability and legality of alcohol causes many people to underestimate the threat it poses to individuals, families, communities, and entire populations. Moreover, there seems to be a subculture associated with alcohol consumption's, and this subculture seems to encourage people to see alcohol as a means of having fun, alleviating stress, and relaxing; for anyone who may have a greater-than-average need for a means of having fun, alleviating stress, and relaxing, this leaves them vulnerable to the propaganda that surrounds alcohol and is why there are many special populations in the U.S. who exhibit high-than-average rates of alcohol and drug addiction.
Although they wouldn’t necessarily be considered a minority group, youths in the adolescent and teenage range are definitely considered a special population. Many parents hope for the reassurance that their children aren’t abusing dangerous substances or becoming at risk for addiction, but the reality is that adolescent experimentation with mind-altering substances—and experimentation with alcohol in particular—has become extremely commonplace. While they can’t typically purchase alcohol on their own, many adolescents and teens can obtain or access alcohol with little difficulty due to the substance being legally available for purchase and oftentimes in supply in their own homes. Parents will often assume that their adolescent children will be too preoccupied with school and their friends to worry about whether or not they’ll bother the alcohol that’s in the home, but it’s particularly common among teens in high school to begin abusing alcohol recreationally.
According to statistics, at least 7 percent of all adolescents and teens will have experimented with alcohol abuse at least once by the time they are seniors in high school. There are many reasons why adolescents and teens might begin abusing alcohol. In many cases, it’s a social thing. As they become older and are able to socialize with teens who are older than them, there’s this unspoken assumption that an adolescent’s willingness to experiment with recreational substance abuse is what separates him or her from peers in terms of maturity and reputation; therefore, it’s often a matter of how a teen wants others to see him or her. In instances of the teen being much younger than others, the teen might abuse alcohol in order to “keep up” with those who are older, or alternately it may occur due to peer pressure from the older teens. In less common instances, teen alcohol abuse could be because of some type of trouble at home, whether it’s marital discourse or divorce between parents, neglect or abuse, or for some other reason. But there’s also the fact that the developing adolescent brain is biologically wired to seek new experiences, which is an evolutionary trait for efficiency and growth that helps them streamline aspects of their day-to-day life.
When most people consider the U.S. population as a whole, they often assume that talk of the “average person” applies equally to everyone within that population. In some cases, that assumption is correct and there’s not a significant difference between people of different ethnic or racial background; however, there’s a tendency for people to overlook differences between the “average person” and people who could be considered part of racial minority groups. With regard to alcohol abuse and addiction, studies have continued to show that many ethnic groups tend to exhibit higher discrepancies—and in some cases significantly higher—between alcohol abuse and dependence among those groups and the population at large.
There’s much misunderstanding concerning the terms “ethnicity” and “race”, but in many instances the former is the better, preferred term as it can used more broadly. An ethnicity refers to a group of people who share either a common belief, race, nationality, religion, or cultural origin. However, while many special populations and minorities groups meet the categorical criteria for ethnicities, there are many groups that don’t, such as the LGBT common and groups based upon age.
In a recent study on racial or ethnic health disparities that was conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, it was found that people who are black or Hispanic tend to exhibit higher rates of total abstinence from alcohol than that exhibited by the overall U.S. population; however, it was also found that there were more instances of alcohol abuse and alcoholism among the black and Hispanic populations than the overall population. In other words, the two largest minorities groups have a greater ratio of people who are either abstinent from alcohol or who have severe alcohol problems than rates seen at the national level; this also indicates that there are far fewer blacks and Hispanics who drink alcohol in moderation. Other studies have shown that over a four-year period, alcohol was involved in almost 12 percent of all Native American deaths, which is a staggering figure.
One of the main problems concerning alcoholism in ethnic or racial minority groups is the apparent lack of treatment availability. According to surveys, areas in which there is a significant presence of ethnic minorities tend to have a much lower concentration and lower quality of treatment than in areas where there is a more significant Caucasian presence. It’s for reasons such as this that the services of Drug Treatment Center Finder as essential; we can help individuals who identify as racial minorities find the high-quality alcoholism treatment programs they need that may have otherwise been inaccessible to them.
There has been a lot of media coverage in recent years concerning possible relationships between substance abuse and sexual minorities. The term “sexual minority” is the more trendy and politically correct way of referring to all those individuals who could be described as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and genderqueer, also often referred to more simply as LGBT or LGBTQ. The reason that “sexual minority” is used in lieu of some other term is because it’s representative of the fact that LGBT individuals are outnumbered by the heterosexual majority. This distinction is important because it is due to being a sexual minority that LGBT individuals are socially persecuted and demonized by members of their own society, which creates negative thoughts and feelings in LGBT individuals that’s been referred to as minority stress.
Alcohol abuse—and the abuse of many other substances—has been exhibited among sexual minority groups at rates that are significantly higher than the national average of approximately 15 percent, which equates to 18 million or so U.S. adults. While it’s difficult to say with certainty what the precise rate of alcohol abuse and dependence is among sexual minorities due to the lack of a sample that represents the LGBT population nationwide, conservative estimates aren’t far from half the entire LGBT community at 45 percent; that figure becomes exponentially higher when other mind-altering substances are considered as well.
The reason that there are such high rates of alcohol abuse and dependence among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered population is a direct result of the minority stress they experience throughout their lives. If an LGBT person “comes out” at a young age, it’s common for him or her to experience discrimination and harassment, both verbal and physical, throughout important formative years. Depending on the area, this experience may continue into and through adulthood as well, potentially causing feelings of self-hatred and internalized homophobia. Being rejected by one’s own community and the society in which he or she lives creates a sense of almost constant fear and discomfort that pushes almost half of all sexual minorities to alcohol abuse; but fortunately, there are many alcohol addiction treatment programs specifically intended for members of the LGBT community.
The part of the population that would be considered elderly and senior citizens aren’t the first group one thinks about when identifying risk groups for alcohol abuse and addiction; however, there have been a number of studies lately to have shown that substance abuse is becoming a major problem for those who are in their 6s and older. In fact, according to recent data collected in a recent census there are more than 35 million people in the U.S. who are over the age of 65 and it’s been estimated that substance abuse affects almost one in five of them, or just below 2 percent. Interestingly, it seems that it’s elderly women who are more prone to alcohol abuse than elderly men, which mirrors statistics that show adolescent females drink more than adolescent males until they reach the point of young adulthood. However, alcohol consumption among any senior citizens, whether male or female, is troublesome because of the effect alcohol has on the bodies of those at that age.
Research has found that as the body ages, it becomes less and less able to retain water while also losing a certain amount of mass. Meanwhile, internal organs and systems become somewhat less efficient, and it all amounts to a senior needing much less alcohol to experience the same effects as a young adult would experience with much larger quantities of alcohol. In other words, the elderly are much more affected and have a very high risk of becoming addicted even when they aren’t consuming very much alcohol. And due to the decrease in water that’s held by the body, alcohol lingers in the elderly rather than being more efficiently processed and expelled as it would in young adulthood to middle age. Collectively, this makes seniors much more susceptible to alcoholism as well as the many negative effects of alcohol abuse, including damage to the liver and kidneys and susceptibility to many types of cancer.
As worrisome as the high rate of alcohol abuse among college students might be, it’s the situations that occur while they’re intoxicated that are more shocking. For instance, almost two thousand college students—or 1,825 students between the ages of 18 and 24—die each year due to preventable, alcohol-related accidental injuries. Moreover, there are over 69, college students in the same age range who are violently assaulted by classmates who are under the influence of alcohol. More than 15, college students develop some type of health problem caused by their alcohol abuse, and between 1.2 and 1.5 percent of all college students will attempt suicide for one or more reasons related to their alcohol abuse. While college students may not represent the special population with the highest number of alcohol abusers, it surely represents the population in which those who are abusing alcohol are also engaging in and suffering from extremely dangerous behaviors that could be prevented with responsible alcohol consumption or abstinence.
Close to 2, college students die each year as a result of alcohol-related incidents, which can include car crashes that result from drinking and driving, accidental deaths from personal injury, homicide, suicide, and other preventable deaths.
Alcohol is a dangerous is substance no matter one’s ethnic or racial background, age, or sexual orientation. If you or someone you love would benefit from a free consultation, call Drug Treatment Center Finder at 855-619-87 to begin your journey to health and sobriety today.