How to Get Hispanic Addicts to Stay in Treatment

Researchers are trying to determine why Hispanic patients are less likely than their Caucasian counterparts to complete treatment for addiction and substance abuse. If experts can answer this question, they can find ways to keep minority addicts in the programs they need to overcome addiction. Addiction is a complicated and chronic disease that has no cure, but it is treatable. To live as an addict in recovery and to have a good, sober life requires completion of a treatment program with periodic tune-ups.

Completing Addiction Treatment

Studies into addiction and minorities have found that both African Americans and Hispanics are less likely than Caucasians to finish treatment programs. There is no great discrepancy when it comes to starting treatment, but only about half of Hispanic patients finish. This is compared to 62% of Caucasian addicts who finish their programs. Identifying dropouts is important, but it is also necessary to find out why they drop out and what factors might keep them in treatment until the end. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania measured the discrepancy in treatment completion and also suggested possible reasons for it. One reason may be socioeconomic status. Having a low status, or living in poverty, can be a major barrier to treatment. When family on the outside relies on a patient to earn an income, that patient is not always able to stay in treatment for the weeks needed to complete it. Researchers also point to instability in housing as a possible explanation, as Hispanic patients in treatment were more likely than Caucasians to be homeless.

Improving Addiction Treatment Outcomes

The goal of studying disparity in treatment for minority addicts is to improve outcomes for individuals. Identifying the disparity is the first step. The next step is to figure out why the disparity exists. Finally, researchers want to implement strategies to help keep Hispanic addicts in treatment and test whether those strategies are effective. Multiple strategies need to be tested, but researchers often begin with one hypothesis and move on to others. One such study conducted by researchers at USC and UCLA investigated the possibility that cultural and language barriers could be preventing Hispanics from finishing treatment programs. The idea is that most addiction treatment facilities have been designed to meet the needs of Caucasian patients. When Spanish-speaking Hispanic patients find that they can’t understand the language used in treatment or are lost in the cultural attributes that don’t make sense to them, they quit. The researchers found that programs tailored to Spanish-speaking populations had better retention rates for Hispanic patients. Another possibility is to give Hispanic addicts better access to residential treatment programs. In the study that initially pinpointed the completion rate discrepancies, there was little difference in completion rates between Caucasian and Hispanic patients in residential facilities. The difference was mostly seen in outpatient programs. This means that Hispanic patients could benefit from having more access to residential care. It may be that all people, regardless of race, language or culture, are more invested in residential programs. It is clear that there is an issue with finishing addiction treatment and that the low rates for Hispanic patients negatively affect individuals. The completion of treatment is essential to managing the disease of addiction. Without it, individuals will likely fail to be sober over the long term. If we can pinpoint why certain people give up on treatment and continue to test ways to keep them in programs, we can make a real difference for real people.

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