One of the biggest things that have I have become aware of since coming to college is the increase in awareness of alcohol abuse within the Hispanic/Latinx community. While looking for research topics for my paper, I noticed an underrepresentation of research in mental disorders and alcohol abuse within the Hispanic population. Let’s take a closer look at the population in general.
What do the numbers look like?
Let’s begin by comparing women in different ethnic backgrounds in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2018 who’ve had alcohol dependency or abuse in the past year.
|Alcohol dependence or abuse (in the past year)B||% (95% CIC)||9.99
ANSDUH 2018: Race/Hispanicity
BNSDUH 2018: Had alcohol dependence or abuse in the past year
C: CI means Confidence Interval
When looking at just the percentages from the 2018 survey, we see that among the minorities, women who identified as Hispanic had the largest percentage of alcohol dependence or abuse in the past year compared to Non-Hispanic Black women and Non-Hispanic Asian women. There is a high percentage of abuse among Latinas but there isn’t enough research on how to help women with this cultural background.
So, what’s the reason behind this? Let’s start with understanding Hispanic culture and the relationship that they have with mental disorders.
Latin Americans and Barriers to Mental Health
Now in order to understand why further research hasn’t been done, it’s important to learn about the barriers that can stop people from seeking help. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has identified key factors that could prevent Hispanics from seeking help.
- Cultural barriers, language barriers, and other barriers to communication
- Issues with discrimination and even perceived discrimination
- Fears of being singled out or persecuted
- The level of acculturation achieved by the particular individual
- Barriers to access to medical care
- Cultural views of treatment for addiction
- Family responsibilities that may result in some individuals not seeking treatment
- Stigma or shame associated with being diagnosed with an addiction or alcohol use disorder or being in treatment for one
- Obvious issues with undocumented immigrants, such as the fear of deportation, fears of persecution, lack of resources, etc.
One of the key points that resonates the strongest among Hispanics is the very first bullet point. Current research has shown that immigrants who reject American culture are 10x less likely to report alcohol abuse than immigrants who accept American culture. Those who accept American culture are more suspectable to peer pressure with alcohol abuse and even more likely to develop chronic and recurring problems associated with their addictive behavior. 
How to Treat Hispanic Women with Alcohol Abuse and Mental Disorders
The first step is to realize the cultural differences in the Hispanic culture will also translate when treating mental health disorders associated with alcohol abuse. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are guidelines to follow for those coming from Hispanic cultures. The first step is to be able to find someone who speaks the language. In the United States, language barriers are an issue when trying to help immigrant communities, not just Hispanics.
Finding someone who has the same cultural background is a hurdle in getting help and recovering. The lack of representation is something that does stop many from seeking help as most believe that no one will be able to relate to what they have gone through. This includes views on how Hispanics see alcohol consumption, how gender roles affect alcohol consumption, and lastly the stigma toward mental health in general.
A big cultural factor affecting recovery is how family-oriented the Hispanic household is. The biggest thing when someone seeks help for substance use disorder is therapy. Therefore, family therapy is strongly recommended to help Hispanics on the road to recovery. In fact, recent studies have shown that Hispanic families relied more on extended family more than friends. In a recent study by the American Psychological Association showed that acculturation is needed in order to expand ethnic inclusivity in research and improve practices for minorities dealing with mental health disorders. 
Now and Beyond
Currently, there are programs being expanded in order to help the Latinx community. For example, the SAMHSA website outlines different programs to help combat the stigma in mental health and substance abuse written in both English & Spanish. Programs include teaching parents/caregivers’ methods to talk to adolescents about the harm that can come from alcohol abuse. The website also includes clinics and healthcare professional guidelines on how to help those in Hispanic culture with alcohol abuse.
There is still a strong need to expand representation in all fields regarding mental health and alcohol abuse. As the Hispanic population grows in the United States, so will the research and practices will become refined.
- “Alcohol and the Hispanic Community.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 26 June 2019, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-and-hispanic-community.
- SAMHDA. (20 May, 2020). National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2018. Retrieved from https://pdas.samhsa.gov/#/survey/NSDUH-2018-DS0001/crosstab/?column=NEWRACE2&control=SEXAGE&filter=NEWRACE2!=6,3,4&results_received=false&row=ABODALC&run_chisq=false&weight=ANALWT_C
- “Information on Hispanic Alcoholism & Rehab Rates.” org, 13 Dec. 2019, www.alcohol.org/alcoholism-and-race/hispanic/.
- Myers, Raquel, et al. “Acculturation and Substance Use: Social Influence as a Mediator among Hispanic Alternative High School Youth.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2009, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4181567/.
- “CSAT.” gov, 14 Apr. 2020, www.samhsa.gov/about-us/who-we-are/offices-centers/csat.
- Alvarez, Josefina, et al. “Substance Abuse Prevalence and Treatment among Latinos and Latinas.” Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2007, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3059600/.
- Berry JW. Conceptual approaches to acculturation. In: Chun KM, Organista PB, Marin G, editors. Acculturation: Advances in theory, measurement, and applied research. Washington, D. C.: American Psychological Association; 2003. pp. 17–38.
- Schwartz, S. J., & Zamboanga, B. L. (2008). Testing Berry’s model of acculturation: A confirmatory latent class approach. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 14(4), 275–285. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0012818