Diversity in Rehab: Current Trends

The journey to sobriety from addiction has made strides for the inclusion of different types of people. Typically, individuals in treatment for substance abuse tend to be white and middle to upper class, and patients of other races were far and few between. In response to be more open to future patients who are a variety of races and spiritual backgrounds, rehabs have expanded their treatments to appeal to a wider range of patients in facilities. Out of this desire to encourage all types of people to get treatment for substance abuse and alcoholism, facilities have evolved to include:

  • Faith-based programs
  • Gender-specific treatment
  • LGBTQ+ treatments
  • Age-specific treatment

The variety of treatments available include a focus on the needs of each patient, with themes in support groups to personalize and enhance recovery experiences. In addition to diverse focus groups becoming more accepted, diverse treatments like spiritual and adventure therapies exist to accommodate the variety of patients and preferences of each patient. As a result, more patients can feel encouraged and valued during their recovery.

Under Prescribing As a Factor For Lack Of Diversity for Drug Treatment

National data states black and Latinox/Hispanic people were 3.1% to 8.1% less likely to finish treatment compared to white counterparts. Native Americans were 4.7% less likely to complete treatment for alcohol use disorders. Traditionally, the history of addiction recovery has featured white patients, namely those who have insurance and financial support to attend facilities. And with the opioid crisis greatly impacting more whites than black people, the diversity in the numbers of people seeking treatment can be skewed.

Some of this stems from a lack of needed medical care for black patients. To illustrate racial biases, racial assumptions and gaps in quality treatment for black patients play a role in medical distribution.  Doctors assume black patients were physically stronger than white patients; did not have access to medical insurance, due to assumed lower social-economic status; or would sell drugs, again due to discriminatory attitudes of black patients seeking treatment. As a result, black patients who need prescription opioids do not receive the medical care needed for treatment. In recent years, “85% of people who died from opioid abuse were white.” Much of this stems from prioritizing the lives of white patients who become addicted to opioids like heroin after using prescription opioids.

According to SAMSHA, “29% of non-Hispanic blacks were less likely to be prescribed opioids for pain.” Furthermore, black patients report more pain compared to white counterparts. The lack of care can contribute to the lower numbers of black patients in facilities, as the numbers of opioid related addictions are lower compared to white communities.

Socio-Religious Factors and Mistrust

Mistrusting doctors or not having access to insurance can create barriers to treatment. Beliefs about the system not favoring them and the knowledge of discrimination from medical professionals can be another factor in hesitating to go to rehab. Black and Latinox/Hispanic communities often endure discrimination and lack of representation, and fears about this occurring in rehab can cause hesitation surrounding recovery.

The trust of black communities over taking risks and not getting qualified care can replace the belief in the need for medication at a facility. Leaning on their communities or using spiritual means of healing like prayer, meditation, herbs and others may be preferred methods that can seem to heal rather than traditional treatments in rehab. A final factor in a lack of diversity in “minority” groups are cultural and social attitudes affecting drug use. This can look like the belief that abusing drugs or alcohol is an end result of a lack of strength, or a lack of faith. Attending church or engaging in spiritual rituals to reduce the attachment for drugs may seem a wise solution.

Hope For The Future For Rehab Diversity

There are several strides that are aiming to improve diversity in rehab. Firstly, the inclusion of a variety of 12 Step groups, and members of all races of staff can encourage diversity. Black or Latinx patients would feel more comfortable getting treatment or medication for care based on races of staff. This means if they see a medical professional of that same ethnicity or racial background providing treatment, they feel more trusting. With information being released about discrimination with medical professionals, this can create awareness that leads to change in prescription practices.

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