Lack of health insurance and other economic resources often preclude members of the African-American community from accessing lifesaving care.

“Around a quarter of black (24%) and Hispanic (23%) inmates were found to abuse alcohol or drugs, compared to 22%of white inmates.” 1

There is a long history of systemic racism in the criminal justice system that has led to Black people being disproportionately targeted and incarcerated. Rather than receiving the support and resources they need to overcome addiction, Black individuals are often punished and stigmatized for their struggles. This perpetuates a cycle of trauma and marginalization, making it even more difficult for them to access the help they need. It is crucial that we address these disparities and work towards creating a more equitable system that prioritizes rehabilitation and healing over punishment.

Alcoholism and Mental Health in the Black Community: Disparities, Causes, and Resources 

Alcoholism continues to impact the Black community in unique and specific ways that can lead to poor mental health outcomes. Although the population experiences comparatively lower rates of binge drinking, they still face higher levels of problems related to alcohol when compared to European-Americans. 

These factors include, among others, higher rates of policing and incarceration, long-term health issues, income inequality, the risk for other types of substance use disorder, and much more. 

In order to effectively address the disproportionate impact of the mental health effects of alcoholism in the Black community, it’s important to understand what factors drive them and what resources are available to help reverse the trend on both an individual and macro level. 

Factors Driving Alcoholism and Poor Mental Health Outcomes in the Black Community

The Black-American experience has a certain level of trauma baked that manifests in ways that are still palpable in today’s society. These factors include, but are not limited to: 

  • Discrimination leading to widespread institutional inequalityData from the Society for the Study of Addiction indicates that experiences of racial discrimination are associated with diverse alcohol-related behaviors among Black Americans, with a stronger association with problematic alcohol use, particularly among younger individuals.
  • Income inequality – Additional data indicates that income inequality is linked to depression, anxiety, trauma, and other pervasive negative mental health conditions. It’s also linked to higher rates of alcohol consumption in the community at large. These economic disparities, often triggered by discrimination and generational gaps in opportunity, create an internalized lack of self-worth, hopelessness, and resentment, with which people often cope by drinking. 
  • Heightened exposure to drinking in media and pop cultureData from Johns Hopkins University highlights the disproportionate targeting of Black youth by alcohol advertisers. The study found that African-American students were exposed more per advertising capita than youth in any other community. 

These findings were present in all types of alcohol marketing, including beer, hard liquor, distilled spirits, and hard “soft” drinks. The phenomenon was also reinforced across all types of media, including print ads, internet advertising, television, and others. This may be due to the comparatively lower rates of actual drinking among the African-American community and a more intense marketing blitz. 

Alcohol-Related Health Impact in the Black Community 

Although Black Americans drink less than other cultural communities, they remain vulnerable to higher rates of health-related impact. Alcohol consumption has contributed to three leading causes of death in African-American communities over the past few decades. Black Americans are between two and ten percent more likely to die from cirrhosis and other alcohol-related illnesses than Caucasians and other groups. 

Additionally, Black Americans face higher rates of criminal penalization for simple DUI offenses. This is also true for different types of substance use disorder, including marijuana, opioids, cocaine, and others. This enduring disparity consequently drives higher rates of poor mental health outcomes. 

Finally, Black Americans face considerable barriers to treatment for alcohol and other types of substance use disorder. Data from Pew Charitable Trusts indicates that lack of health insurance and other economic resources often preclude members of the African-American community from accessing lifesaving care.

Substance Use and Mental Health Resources for the Black Community 

  1. The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation works to normalize and improve access to mental health services for Black communities in hopes of eliminating the stigma toward seeking help and support for mental illness. 
  2. Black Mental Wellness helps people access evidence-based information and resources about mental health and behavioral health topics from a Black perspective. They aim to highlight and increase the diversity of mental health professionals and to decrease the mental health stigma in the Black community.
  3. Black Therapists Rock offers programs that address the unique mental health issues faced by the Black Community among all age groups and regions. 
  4. Therapy In Color works to help ensure all individuals can access treatment with a practitioner who promotes authenticity and cultural diversity. They are a community of healers dedicated to removing the stigma associated with seeing a therapist.

Additional mental health resources for the African-American community include Therapy for Black Girls, Therapy for Black Men, and more. These resources speak from a place of empathy, experience, and genuine authority regarding the unique factors that drive substance and mental health challenges in the Black experience. 

Getting Help for Alcohol Use Disorder and Mental Health Struggles 

You don’t have to let stigma or other obstacles get in the way of your peace of mind and recovery. If you or someone you care about is a member of the Back community struggling with alcoholism or mental health challenges, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. 

There are rehab centers all across the country that can provide quality, sensitive, and culturally competent care. Whether you’re struggling with co-occurring alcohol use disorder and mental illness or you’re just starting to realize how much drinking is affecting your life.

Government Funding Options for Alcohol Rehab: Medicaid, Medicare, VA Benefits, and SAMHSA Grants

For individuals seeking alcohol rehab, the government offers several funding options through federal or state programs, as well as private non-profit organizations. Medicaid, a federal and state-funded program for low-income individuals and families, covers a wide range of healthcare services, including substance abuse treatment. Depending on the state, Medicaid may also cover alcohol rehab costs at treatment centers. Medicare, a federal health insurance program for people 65 years or older or with certain disabilities, covers inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment. Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits provide eligible veterans and their families with healthcare benefits, including coverage for alcohol rehab at VA facilities or private rehab centers. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers grants to organizations providing alcohol rehab services, with a focus on underserved populations and communities.

Low Income Payment Options