Black opioid users face challenges when seeking treatment –


African Americans experience unique struggles when it comes to addiction treatment.

A new study from the University of Kentucky highlights the unique challenges that many Black Americans face in substance abuse treatment programs for opioid abuse. Opioids have quickly become one of the biggest killers in the United States. Of all drug deaths in 2019, more than 70% involved opioids.

Some studies have focused on opioid treatment, but the University of Kentucky study is one of the first to focus solely on this population. This matters because opioids have a disproportionate impact on the black community. Between 2007 and 2019, deaths related to a combination of cocaine and opioids increased by 184% among white people. Deaths linked to this same drug combination increased by 575% among blacks. Deaths linked to a combination of methamphetamine and opioids increased by 3,200% among whites and 16,200% among blacks.

According to the University of Kentucky study, black Americans face three unique challenges in drug treatment for opioid abuse: “preparation for recovery; types of suppliers; and support from friends and family.

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Preparedness for recovery involves why the person is in treatment and their motivation to be there. There are often two reasons people seek treatment for opioid abuse: they have made the decision to seek treatment themselves, or they are mandated to complete treatment as part of a court sentence.

Other studies that have included a large population sample of Americans have shown that any form of treatment, regardless of the underlying reasons, increases the chance of recovery. However, the Kentucky study found that black Americans may struggle if treatment is court-mandated.

Although the causes of this feeling are not definitive, study participants reported that forced treatment felt like a loss of control. And since it was not of their own choosing, they may not participate fully or find it to be very effective.

The types of providers may also limit the results of the processing. Study participants said they rarely see healthcare providers, counselors, therapists, or other black or even people of color. They cited this as a challenge because it was difficult for them to feel heard and understood enough when discussing their backgrounds.

These participants also talked about the support of their friends and family in the research and mentioned something called “absent support”, which is the idea that although they are close to family members, this family did not ask not often questions about recovery or delving into personal matters at all. Thus, although family members are generally not opposed to the treatment process, they do not express their support in tangible ways.

This study is the first of its kind to shed light on the experience of black Americans with opioid recovery. Hopefully, this will lead to changes and adjustments in the treatment process, as opioids are currently affecting black Americans at an incredibly disproportionate rate and the country as a whole continues to struggle with a devastating drug epidemic.


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