Hispanic American Groups Differ In Substance Abuse Levels

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Nearly 8.3 percent of all Americans of Hispanic origin ages 12 or over were classified as needing treatment in the past year for alcohol disorders according to a new national study. The study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also reveals that only 7.7 percent of these over 2.6 million Hispanic Americans with drinking disorders received the help they needed at a specialty treatment facility.

The study also showed 3.4 percent of the Hispanic American population (1.1 million people) age 12 or older were in need of treatment for illicit drug use, and that only 15.1 percent of them had received treatment at a specialty facility.

Among different Hispanic American groups there were notable differences in the rates of treatment need and receipt. For example, the prevalence of alcohol treatment need for Hispanic Americans of Mexican origin was higher (9.2 percent) than for those of Puerto Rican (7.7 percent), Central or South American (6.8 percent), or Cuban origin (5.2 percent). However, the need for treatment for illicit drug use was higher for Hispanic Americans of Puerto Rican background (6.1 percent) than Hispanics with Cuban (3.6 percent), Mexican (3.3 percent), or Central or South American origins (2.2 percent).


Hispanic Americans of Puerto Rican background in need of treatment had considerably higher levels for receiving specialized treatment than other Hispanic groups -- for alcohol disorders (16.6 percent) and illicit drug use (27.9 percent). By contrast, among those of Central or South American descent, only 3.2 percent of those needing alcohol treatment received it at a specialized facility and only 6.6 percent needing illicit drug treatment received it at a specialty facility.

“This study highlights the fact that the Hispanic American community is diverse and has special treatment needs,” said SAMHSA Acting Administrator, Eric Broderick, D.D.S., M.P.H. “Through this awareness we can better tailor our efforts to reach segments of this community with appropriate treatment strategies.”

The study also indicates than Hispanic Americans born in the United States were more likely than their counterparts born elsewhere to need treatment for alcohol (10.1 percent versus 6.7 percent). Similarly 5.5 percent of native-born Hispanic Americans needed treatment for illicit drug problems as opposed to 1.5 percent of the Hispanic Americans who were not born in the United States.

The same pattern was shown in terms of differences in levels of receipt of treatment for illicit drug problems. Among persons needing illicit drug abuse treatment, Hispanic Americans born in the United States were more than twice as likely as those born elsewhere to have received treatment at a specialty facility (17.4 percent versus 7.6 percent). However, the difference between the rate of treatment for alcohol use among Hispanic Americans born in the United States and elsewhere was not statistically significant (8.9 versus 6.1 percent).

Substance Use Treatment Need and Receipt among Hispanics is based on data drawn from the 2002 to 2007 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, involving responses from 57,333 Hispanic Americans aged 12 and older.