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Substance Use Resources for Students from Historically Marginalized Groups

Michael Leach CCMA By Michael Leach | Last Updated: 16 November 2023
  • What You'll Learn

DRS understands that students from historically marginalized groups face unique challenges when seeking help for mental health and addiction. We have created resource guides to help individuals better understand what shaped the current standard of care for their demographic. We offer advice on what can be done to better oneself and also give insight into steps that can be taken to make the future of mental health care more inclusive.

Black Students
LGTBQ+ Students
Asian Students
Latinx Students
Native American Students

Stigma, fear of government-led programs, lack of insurance, poverty, and inaccessible treatment prevent countless Black Americans from accessing the help they need. Additionally, research indicates that Black Americans have lower recovery rates following drug rehab due to a lack of aftercare support programs.

Fortunately, most colleges and universities offer resources for their students. If you feel that you may need help, contact the health services at your school. Taking advantage of these services can go long way in preventing mental health issues like substance use from occurring and can also ensure your academic performance does not suffer.

Besides the services offered by your school, there are countless non-profit and specialized health organizations designed to help Black Americans.

Here are some that may be helpful:

The Steve Fund Logo

The Steve Fund

This organization supports the mental health and emotional well-being of students of color by providing crisis response and financial assistance.

National Pan-Hellenic Council Logo

NPHC

The NPHC helps to improve access to resources and community services for Black sororities and fraternities.

BEAM Logo

BEAM

Students have access to helpful recovery resources, and the organization works to decrease the stigma associated with mental health.

Black Girls Smile Inc. Logo

Black Girls Smile

This organization works to improve awareness of mental issues among Black girls.

The Aakoma Project, Inc. Logo

AAKOMA

This organization works with youth and young adults to help meet their mental health needs.

The Trevor Project Logo

The Trevor Project

A well-known organization that provides resources to LGBTQ people of color who are struggling with mental health issues and addiction.

Lee Thompson Young Foundation Logo

Lee Thompson Young Foundation

A mental health and recovery organization focusing on holistic approaches.

Services For Black Men, LLC. Logo

Therapy for Black Men

Numerous community programs are provided to help Black men with mental health and addiction issues.

Black Men Heal Logo

Black Men Heal

This organization provides access to health treatment and community resources for men of color.

Black Women’s Health Imperative Logo

Black Women’s Health Imperative

This is a non-profit organization that is solely dedicated to achieving health equity for Black women in America.

Learning from our Past & Changing the Future

Short History of Substance Use in the Black Community

Substance use and addiction have impacted Black communities across the country for decades. The most commonly used drugs within the Black community are marijuana, psychotherapeutic drugs, cocaine, crack cocaine and hallucinogens.

Drug overdose deaths have steadily increased by 40% within the Black community.

Historically, and to this day, black communities are more likely to experience poverty, incarceration, and homelessness, which are factors that lead to substance use and addiction.

The crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s had a lasting effect on the Black community. Within inner cities across the nation, drug-related deaths and crimes were prevalent. The “War on Drugs” would significantly impact black communities, which focused heavily on drugs within these communities.

During the early 1990s, prison populations grew because police arrested many dealers and users, who tended to be impoverished, young black males. It was estimated that one out of every three black males in their twenties was incarcerated or on probation.

In 2000, the imprisonment rate for drug-related crimes was 15 times higher for Black people than White people. As of 2022, the imprisonment rate remains five times higher.

Unfortunately, after decades of severe criminal consequences, generations of black men and women have avoided government-led programs to address substance use and addiction.

Additionally, for many Black individuals and families, poverty, lack of health insurance, limited access to transportation, and untreated mental health problems make it difficult to receive any help for addiction.

Making a Positive Change in the Future​

It is possible to help someone with addiction recognize their problem and seek treatment. We know there are countless people who need help. However, these individuals are underserved by treatment and recovery providers because of cultural, religious, or other factors.

Making a positive change for the future requires inclusion and ensuring that anyone can get help and feel safe in the environment where they receive this help.

Multicultural staff is more effective at providing treatment and aftercare support. Programs and services should be easily accessible within large urban and rural areas. Spirituality and religion are also strong among the Black population and should be emphasized during treatment and aftercare.

In addition, it requires trusting the people who are providing the help. Representation is important, whether knowing there are similar people in the group or having counselors with the same background.

Additionally, it is important to reach out to faith groups within the Black community to provide community prevention and education resources. Finally, address the family unit and encourage the community to help individuals become more comfortable asking for help.

Substance use treatment should never paint everyone’s experience with a broad brush, particularly for members of the LGBTQ+ community. However, there are common reasons why LGBTQ+ individuals turn to drugs or alcohol, and rehabilitation should tailor programs to meet these needs.

LGBTQ+ individuals experience early emotional trauma—whether this involves being confused at a young age or experiencing it later in life, emotional trauma can come from some of the following external sources:

  • Emotional or physical abuse
  • Getting kicked out of the house
  • Being a victim of bullying or discrimination
  • Being forced into conversion therapy

There is also stress that comes from social prejudice and discrimination. Studies have shown that 36% have experienced some form of discrimination. There are proven links between discrimination and substance use.

Substance use treatment programs must address the specific underlying factors yet be tailored to the individual’s unique needs. There are numerous drug and alcohol rehab programs specifically for LGBTQ+ people making the rehabilitation process much more successful.

There are numerous resources that are accessible to the LGBTQ+ community. While some may find it challenging to reach out for help, there are multiple non-profits and other organizations designed specifically for the LGTBQ+ community.

Here are some that may be helpful:

LGBT Foundation Logo

LGBT Foundation

The foundation offers support, advice, and information relating to mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.

GLMA Logo

GLMA

Gay and Lesbian Medical Association is a national organization focusing on health equity for the LGBTQ+ community.

Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) Network Logo

ATTC

Addiction Technology Transfer Center is an organization that provides training and assistance for providers covering treatment issues and barriers faced by LGBTQ+ individuals.

GLAAD Logo

GLAAD

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation organization offers resources for transgender people in crisis and general information and support details for the transgender community.

The Trevor Project Logo

The Trevor Project

A well-known organization that provides resources to LGBTQ+ people of color who are struggling with mental health issues and addiction.

It Gets Better Project Logo

It Gets Better

This nonprofit organization aims to empower and connect LGBTQ+ youth around the globe. They have identified 900+ resources where members of this community can get support.

Hetrick-Martin Institute Logo

HMI

Henrick-Martin Institute is an organization that offers direct services and referrals for LGBTQ+ individuals aged 13 to 24, and their families.

Learning from our Past & Changing the Future

Short History of Substance Use in the LGBTQ+ Community

Substance use and addiction have impacted LGBTQ+ communities across the country, and historically, some of the trends include:

  • Those who identify as gay or lesbian are twice as likely as heterosexuals to have an addiction.
  • Those who identify as bisexual are three times as likely to have a substance use disorder.
  • Those who are unsure how to identify are five times as likely to have an addiction.
  • Transgender students were 2.5 times more likely to use methamphetamine and cocaine.
  • LGBTQ+ individuals often enter treatment centers with more severe substance use disorders.

Historically, this has been a significant problem among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning communities. There are many contributing factors and triggering issues that created this problem.

Discrimination and social stigma have long been at the heart of this issue. Almost all LGBTQ+ individuals face some form of discrimination, harassment, or bullying. Not too long ago, most kept sexual identities hidden to avoid discrimination.

Before and after the civil rights movement, many members of the LGBTQ+ community had a genuine fear of fitting into a society they perceive as rejecting them. Addictions often begin at young ages because young people are afraid of not being accepted by those closest to them. 

However, this is still the case today as countless individuals face rejection from family and friends. As a result, many individuals turn to drugs and alcohol to cope.

Making a Positive Change in the Future​

To help make a brighter future, drug and alcohol treatment centers must help identify the causes behind substance within the LGBTQ+ community and treat those specific issues.

Additionally, drug-increased awareness of discrimination and drug education and prevention are critical for preventing future generations from becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. 

Substance use treatment should fit the needs of the individual attending the program. Treatment providers must continue to focus on LGBTQ+-friendly programs and take into consideration the unique needs of this community.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community are abusing substances at higher rates than any other group within the United States. It has been demonstrated that substance use and addiction are prevalent problems created by trauma, discrimination, and stigma. This makes embracing diversity and being more inclusive a foundation for a better future for all members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The lack of Asian Americans seeking help for their addictions is rooted in stigma and its underlying impact on those from these communities. Most Asian identities are forged by trying to avoid any shame-producing feelings. Asian societies are much different from traditional American societies, as they are referred to as shame-based cultures where social order is maintained through the use of shame. Unfortunately, as a result, few Asians seek help for addiction.

Fortunately, there has been a strong push to destigmatize substance use, which may be why more and more AAPI individuals seek help for substance use disorders. There is also a growing amount of non-profits and mental health organizations.

Here is a list of a few of them:

South Asian Logo

South Asian Therapists

This is a directory of South Asian mental health workers to help people find local therapists.

ACRS Logo

ACRS

Asian Counseling and Referral Services works to promote the visibility, inclusion, and equality of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in America.

AADAP Inc Logo

AADAP

The Asian American Drug Abuse Program is a non-profit organization that prevents substance use among Asian American youth.

NAAPIMHA Logo

NAAPIMHA

The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association works to promote mental health care among all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Asian Women for Health Logo

AWFH

Asian Women for Health is a non-profit organization that works to improve access to healthcare for Asian women in America.

Project Lotus Logo

Project Lotus

This group works to reduce the stigma of mental illness and addiction among Asian Americans while also offering solutions.

Recovery Dharma Global Logo

Recovery Dharma

This is a Buddhist-inspired addiction recovery fellowship hosting meetings online each day.

Learning from our Past & Changing the Future

Short History of Substance Use in the AAPI Community

Historically, Asian Americans experience some of the lowest rates of substance use. However, when they are struggling with an addiction, they are more likely to hide their abuse and not speak about their addiction. 

It is estimated that close to 10% of Asian Americans aged 12 or older have used illicit drugs in the past year. Asian Americans are also more likely to turn to loved ones or religious leaders rather than professional treatment services.

Within Asian culture, cultural stigma and shame exacerbate the hidden nature of mental health issues. If an individual does not access the help they need, they will seek other ways to cope and numb the pain they are experiencing.

Unfortunately, data pertaining to addiction among Asian Americans have only been collected by various state agencies since the 1990s. The lack of data has made it challenging to advocate for federal, state, or county funds for treatment and addiction services specific to this community.

Asian Americans have also had to deal with the “model minority myth,” a term coined in the 1960s by a New York Times story. The article referred to a set of stereotypes that Asians can achieve high levels of education and socioeconomic status more than other communities of people.

Decades of the model minority myth lead to stigma and shame for not living up to specific standards, whether spoken or unspoken.

Asian Americans have consistently been a marginalized community. Many families and individuals have had to struggle with racism and being identified as non-American, which leads to a more profound negative impact on their mental health.

Historically, mental health issues are overlooked within Asian communities, which means substance abuse disorders are also overlooked.

Making a Positive Change in the Future​

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing segments of the American population. While they do have lower rates of addiction, it is crucial to focus on removing and addressing the significant stigma and cultural shame associated with being addicted to drugs or alcohol within Asian communities.

Unfortunately, there remain many barriers to treatment:

  • Cultural values
  • Individual factors
  • Practical issues

It is critical to continue to expand the national substance use prevention and treatment dialogue to include Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. It is also essential to recognize the ongoing need for alcohol and drug rehabs among this population.

Asian Americans are more likely to seek help from personal networks, which include friends, family, and religious communities. They do this before consulting with addiction and mental health professionals.

Education and prevention programs must address this by providing relevant information to Asian communities to encourage more people to seek help through drug rehab programs.

Substance use treatment centers must also provide culturally relevant programs and services. Asian Americans hold a deep sense of cultural identity, and it is naive to believe that they easily assimilate into American culture more quickly than others.

Recognizing the underlying factors that lead to substance use is critical to prevention. There are distinct cultural and lifestyle circumstances within Asian culture that lead to many individuals struggling with a substance use disorder.

The overall message for a better future should be that anyone can get the help they need to overcome addiction and substance use. This is accomplished through community drug education and prevention programs.

Many risk factors lead to addiction within the Hispanic and Latin communities. Acculturation, for example, refers to assimilating into another typically dominant culture. Many Hispanic youths struggle with acculturation, which can later create a substance use disorder.

Unfortunately, there can be significant obstacles when seeking treatment. Language barriers have always been an issue. Most families find they can only access English-speaking treatment providers. A large percentage of the Hispanic and Latin population struggle with English, which would prevent them from finding a drug rehab program.

In addition, there are high rates of uninsured individuals within this community. Hispanics have the highest uninsured rate of any racial or ethnic group within the country. In 2020, 18% of the Hispanic population was not covered by health insurance, compared to 5% of the non-Hispanic population.

When seeking help, it is critical to find programs that are Spanish-speaking if English is not fluent or a person struggles. Suppose a family or individual does not have health insurance. In that case, it is essential to consider low-cost or free substance use treatment resources. There are also many non-profits and other health organizations specializing in helping the Latinx community.

Here are some that may be helpful:

7 Cups Logo

7 Cups

7 Cups provides an online support community for young people of color.

United We Dream Logo

UWD

United We Dream is an organization that is youth-focused, and youth-led to help improve Latino and Latina equality.

The Steve Fund Logo

The Steve Fund

This organization supports the mental health and emotional well-being of students of color by providing crisis response and financial assistance.

Latinx Therapy Logo

Latinx Therapy

Latinx Therapy provides a national directory to find a Latinx therapist while also making a bilingual podcast. Their mission is to destigmatize mental health in the Latinx community.

Latino Equality Alliance Logo

LEA

Latino Equality Alliance is a non-profit organization that advocates for the equality and justice for the Latin community.

Sad Girls Club Logo

Sad Girls Club

An organization that focuses on supporting women of color within the millennial and GenZ population.

Learning from our Past & Changing the Future

Short History of Substance Use in the Latino Community

Historically, Latino communities have had less access to treatment and poorer outcomes of program success. In addition, there has been a lack of mental health services. This has led to troubling trends within Hispanic communities.

Close to 10% of Hispanics will develop an alcohol dependency. In addition, slightly over 7% of Hispanics have struggled with a substance use disorder. Moreover, nearly all Hispanic youth who struggle with a substance use disorder do not receive care at a specialized facility.

Over the past four decades, the Hispanic and Latin American population in the U.S. has been growing steadily. In the early 1990s, National Household Surveys on Substance Abuse indicated that rates of alcohol and other drug use among Latinas and Latinos did not differ from those of the overall population in the U.S.

However, in 1993, crack cocaine use among Latinos was significantly high. The higher rates of substance use were likely due to socioeconomic differences. Historically, there have also been gender differences in prevalence rates of substance between Latinas and Latinos. Latinas are more likely to abstain from using alcohol and illicit drugs. Cultural norms often discourage substance use by women.

Many within the Hispanic and Latin communities still struggle with substance use and underlying mental health conditions.

Making a Positive Change in the Future

Making a positive change in the future involves overcoming barriers and keeping people informed. It begins with removing the language barrier, as communication is essential. More treatment providers should be providing Spanish language services.

Additionally, primary care physicians should be working with substance use treatment providers. Most Latinos are likely to consult a primary care physician as the first person of contact. Families should also be involved in intervening and providing ongoing support.

Within Latin culture, substance use and addiction are often seen as a sign of weakness, and very few Latinos speak about their problems. In addition, there are also significant barriers when accessing treatment, but individuals can overcome these obstacles with the correct information.

Substance use treatment should be culturally sensitive and competent. Education and prevention are critical components and should be specific to the Latin and Hispanic communities. It is challenging to help Latinos overcome their communities’ stigma about addiction, but the more people understand what substance use disorder is, the better understanding they become.

Many underlying factors lead to substance use within Native and Indigenous communities, and much of this is attached to past trauma. When seeking help for substance use, it is a good idea to receive trauma-informed care, which avoids traumatizing patients during rehabilitation. Substance use treatment should also address both alcohol and drug use using culturally appropriate techniques and healing methods.

The primary problem is the lack of access to suitable drug and alcohol rehabs. In addition, a lack of health insurance. Some low-cost or free drug rehabs are available in large urban areas, but few options exist locally. Substance use treatment programs for Native Americans should also consider cultural beliefs and practices.

More affordable and accessible options are needed that meet the cultural needs of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. That being said there are a multitude of non-profit organizations and health resources that serve the Native American and Indigenous community.

Here is a list of a few of them:

Indian Health Services Logo

IHS

Indian Health Services is a government organization that focuses on raising the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaskan Natives.

The Center for Native American Youth Logo

CNAY

Center for Native American Youth is a national education and advocacy organization that works alongside Native youth ages 24 and under.

We R Native Logo

WeRNative

This organization is a comprehensive health resource for Native youth, promoting holistic health and positive growth.

Well For Culture Logo

Well For Culture

This is an organization that aims for recovery with indigenous health and wellness practices.

White Bison Logo

White Bison

This organization provides sobriety, recovery, addiction prevention, and wellness/Wellbriety learning resources to the Native American/Alaskan Native community nationwide.

Native American Connections Logo

NAC

Native American Connections works to improve the lives of individuals and families through culturally appropriate behavioral health and community development services.

Looking back & Moving Forward

Short History of Substance Use in the Native American and Indigenous Communities

Many Native American families and individuals find it challenging to locate treatment services because of limited resources and a lack of community-based substance use treatment.

There are many underlying issues associated with addiction within Native culture. During the westward expansion in the U.S., indigenous people endured years of mistreatment. Throughout much of American history, Native Americans had their lives upended and were forced to live on reservations.

Additionally, those who moved to urban areas found assimilating into European-American culture challenging. Unfortunately, trauma is passed through generations for any group with a history of oppression.

Generational trauma still contributes to substance use disorders and mental health issues within Native communities.

There is a barrier between Native and Indigenous people and professional substance use treatment. Statistically, most Natives are likely to seek help from spiritual healers. In addition, 20 to 30% lack health insurance, and close to 80% live outside tribal areas.

Native Americans have higher incidences of substance misuse due to their history and face significant barriers when accessing treatment.

Making a Positive Change in the Future

Native Americans and Alaskan Natives are more likely to need substance use treatment than persons of any other ethnic group.

Limited access, lack of health insurance, and lack of cultural-based programs are primary barriers. However, these disparities can be resolved with increased access and availability of culturally sensitive treatment programs.

Most local Native communities agree that local adaptations of treatment protocols are needed to address the diversity among Native Americans. There are significant differences in language, culture, and customs among the 573 recognized American Indiana and Alaskan Native tribes and communities.

Countless studies have shown that cultural identity and spirituality are important for community members seeking help for addiction. Moreover, they experience better outcomes when traditional healing approaches are used.

More must be done to help these communities where problems are growing with opioids, alcohol, and other drugs. Local treatment resources and culturally appropriate drug education and prevention are critical to helping these communities.

CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ARTICLE

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Michael Leach is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, who has over 5 years of experience working in the field of addiction. He spent his career working under the board-certified Addictionologist Dr. Rohit Adi. His experience includes working with families during their loved one’s stay in treatment, helping those with substance abuse issues find treatment, and teaching life skills to patients in a recovery atmosphere. Though he has worked in many different areas of rehabilitation, the majority of his time was spent working one on one with patients who were actively withdrawing from drugs. Withdrawal and the fear of going through it is one biggest reason why an addict continues to use and can be the most difficult part of the rehabilitation process. His experience in the withdrawal atmosphere has taught him that regardless of what approach a person takes to get off drugs, there are always mental and emotional obstacles that need to be overcome. He believes having someone there to help a person through these obstacles can make all the difference during the withdrawal process.