When someone says, ‘drug addict,’ who comes to mind? Someone you know? Someone you saw passing by? Or a statistic? Anyone can become addicted to drugs, and drugs don’t discriminate against any person. People, however, can discriminate against people, and limit access to drugs for some people, and not others. One result of this very occurrence is the opioid crisis – earlier, in the mid-90s, opiate drugs were still being frequently prescribed as pain killers.
Those receiving those prescriptions, though, were rarely non-white – bear in mind that this is post-New York City Crack Epidemic, and the stereotype of the urban-dwelling Black person, addicted to crack cocaine still existed (and exists) strongly in the mind of the general public, including the medical community. The result is an entire generation of doctors reticent to prescribe opioid painkillers to non-white people, and a growing community of white opioid abusers, and skyrocketing opioid overdoses.
In the United States, men are more likely, overall, to use addictive drugs. ‘Men’ takes into consideration both teen boys and transmen and boys, two male populations who are highly vulnerable to drug use and drug addiction. While drug addiction doesn’t discriminate, as iterated above, the likelihood of drug and/or alcohol addiction is lessened among middle- and upper-middle-class men. Working class and wealthy men have different stressors that lead them down the path to drug use, addictive behaviors, and full-blown drug addiction.
While not as vulnerable to experimentation with drugs as men, women’s rate of death from alcoholism has steadily increased since the early 2000s. As with men, this is accounting for transwomen and girls. Compounding this problem is the rising stress level of everyday women, most of whom enjoy a variety of new career and marriage options as a result of birth control, access to education, and the advent of remote work. This excellent new age of options for women, however, has also contributed to the rise of heart disease as a cause of mortality in women, indicating a rise in overall stress levels, and increasing alcohol dependence. Even more alarming are women in abusive relationships, who are far more likely to have issues with addiction than single women.
The Opioid Crisis is alive and well. Just three years ago, West Virginia experienced the most opioid-overdose deaths on record. Being a state that is over 90% white, this instance was a wake-up call to the rest of the United States, where the ruling image of a person addicted to drugs is a Black or Brown person addicted to crack cocaine. The face of The Opioid Crisis was a rural white male in his 20s and 30s. With that, the face of drug addiction began to slowly change to reflect people who looked more like Jesse Pinkman than Tyrone Biggums.
The stereotype of the Black drug addict is as pervasive as it is damaging. Much of the stereotype focuses on Black use of crack cocaine (which is used just frequently by White people as it is by Black people), but recently has expanded to include high-end alcohol and loads of marijuana. While there are certain truths in marijuana use, particularly among young Black people, alcoholism isn’t nearly as pervasive a problem as it is in most other communities, though it does exist.
Latin America is known for a few key things in the United States: the beautiful cultures, the large number of Indigenous Nations, the excellent and highly varied cuisine, and the unavoidable violence from gangs and the drug cartels. Inevitably, there is a community of Latin American drug users in the United States. Like many non-White populations, the rate of addiction to opioids among Latinos is low for a variety of reasons, not the least of which include doctors’ lack of willingness to prescribe them. Alcohol consumption among Latino and Indigenous people, however, can be very high – just as high as it is with young, white college students. With an entire history of alcohol being used against Indigenous Nations to trick them into giving in to the demands the the United States governments, alcohol abuse continues to plague reservations and Indigenous people living in cities and suburbs.
Asian/Middle Eastern People
The world’s premier supply of opioids is sourced from Afghanistan, a large producer of poppy, from which heroin is created. This surprises many people, and perhaps it should – rarely do people consider the other financial ramifications of using illicit drugs, and one of them is funding terrorism and terrorist activity. Though much of the extremist terrorism of Islam victimizes the Middle East, the Middle East is much like Latin America, except that drug cartels terrorize citizens in Latin America, and religious extremists terrorize Middle Eastern countries. How much of the money made from Afghani opioids remains a mystery, though much of it almost certainly ends up in the hands of extremist groups. As a general rule, though, people from the Middle East are some of the least-seen faces in drug rehabilitation programs, and the size of the population in the United States overall makes understanding the depths of their substance abuse problems, if they exist, very difficult. With so many Muslims staying true to their religious ban on alcohol and pork, alcoholism is rarely an issue in the Middle East, which could be true of people from the region living in the United States.
What is absolutely true about the Middle East and Asia is that the culture around the use of tobacco products is completely opposite of the United States. Smoking tobacco has a long, cherished history in many countries in the Middle East and Asia. Hookah, which involves smoking a specialized light tobacco from a water pipe, is a tradition shared with family and friends. Chewing bin’Lan, a tobacco product, is sold throughout Taiwan, and is a type of chewing tobacco. Asian people across the board have high rates of use of tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol in the United States, and across Asia.
No matter someone’s race, sex, or ethnicity, anyone can become addicted to drugs. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, you should know that you’re not alone. Contact us for help.
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