How Prejudice Impacts a Broken Drug Treatment System

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Prejudice is an ongoing issue where much more can be done to ensure equality. Prejudice exists in the realms of addiction treatment when it comes to the lack of access to treatment, stigmas related to mental health, flawed hospital maneuvers, and insurance industry practices.

If the addiction treatment system was more aware of the existence of prejudice within their system, then minority groups will not be ignored in addiction recovery.

Racial Stereotyping

A 2008 study proved that white Americans were twice as likely to be prescribed an opioid compared to black Americans because of racial stereotyping. This is because they feel like black people will have a better chance of getting addicted to the medication.

A study in the journal Epidemiology says that 14,000 more black Americans would have died from an opioid overdose at the same rate as white Americans. That shows that skin color has no impact on who is at more risk of an overdose than another group of people.

The system’s negative bias of black Americans also came out in a University of Michigan study where it said white populations were 35 times as likely to receive treatment for opioid addiction than black Americans even though the rates between the two races were similar.

Being Ignored by the Health Care System

Instead of understanding that addiction is a disease, black people with addiction are treated like criminals. If more people were treated for their addiction, they would not end up in jail for drug-related crimes.

It should be up to the criminal justice system to ensure these people in jail get the help they need for their addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that 65% of those in jail have some kind of substance abuse disorder and another study found that less than 20% have received treatment.

With black Americans outnumbering white Americans in U.S. prisons, that means that a majority of black people are part of these statistics. Public officials need to work with law enforcement officers to direct the person struggling with addiction to the healthcare system to receive treatment. 

Pushed Away from Hospitals

Instead of giving a black person who comes into the hospital Suboxone after an overdose, it is not offered in fear they are using it to get high instead. Their withdrawal symptoms are being ignored like a form of punishment.

If someone walked into the emergency room complaining of chest pains, a doctor would not ignore that person because of the reasons that brought them in there. This can prevent black people from making any hospital visits in fear that they will be suspected of drug use.

The truth is that even if it was the reason to come to the hospital, that is not an excuse to turn them away. If physical ailments are not ignored, neither should addiction and mental illness issues.

Insurance Companies Add to the Stigma

Minority groups are also faced with the challenge of getting full insurance coverage for their addiction or mental health needs. They may assume that because they pay their premiums every month, there is no reason why they should not receive full coverage.

Society seems to accept this way of thinking in that we are supposed to view those with addiction or mental illness in a negative light. This leads to doctors not truly understanding addiction care since patients are not encouraged to be paid less by insurance companies. 

Public Education Against Prejudice

The assumptions that cause people to view those struggling with substance abuse in a more negative light come from misinformation and racism. In the 1980s and 1990s, the media would condemn those addicted to crack as “crackheads” or “crack mothers” exclusively portrayed as African-American even though white people used crack at a similar rate.

Scientific facts and real statistics about addiction, drugs, and the people who use drugs need to be presented instead of inaccurate myths. Lifting the stigma will end the cycle of discrimination in the current drug war.

Word Choices

We need to be careful about the way we talk about drugs and drug users or we are creating or promoting a stigma. Calling someone a “crackhead” or a “junkie” will just make that person feel worse about themselves and will do nothing to inspire them to get better.

The next time you interact with someone with substance abuse disorder, think of that person as a whole person instead of judging them by their harmful behavior. Refer to that person as “a person with substance abuse disorder” instead of labeling them as an addict. 

Drug Testing

Drug testing is important when it comes to making sure that employees are not intoxicated when performing their duties, but they can be discriminatory. These tests may exclude those from job opportunities, student financial aid, and public benefits.

Drug tests even have the ability to send those struggling to get clean on parole back to jail. If these drugs tests do not offer aid once a positive result is seen, they will only be seen as a tool of discrimination.

We all need to fight back against the stigma of addiction. It does not matter what country you came from, gender, or age as everyone struggling with addiction needs help at the same rate.

The drug treatment system as well as society needs to see addiction as a public health crisis in which everyone receives the utmost treatment to save their lives.

Located in Huntington Beach, California next to a beautiful pond, Silver Lining Recovery is a serene outpatient care center that believes in staying relaxed while receiving treatment. Silver Lining’s philosophy is the most effective way to treat addiction is to find the underlying cause of it and offer professional help.

Their customized treatment program offers a number of different individualized therapies with knowledgeable and experienced counselors to be there for you and uncover unresolved issues like EMDR, CBT, DBT, meditation treatment, faith-based treatment, and academic and career counseling.  For more information, please call us at (833) 847-6984.