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Lizeth Morales

Professor Pearson

SAEL 200

25 April 2017

Drug Addiction in Latinos: The Ideology of Equality vs. Equity

Drug culture has been seen for centuries before problems of drug addiction emerged. In a

short period of time, cultures went from alcohol-only to a multi-drug culture which therefore

causes societal changes and problems. Drug addiction is a topic that is often discussed on a broad

context mentioning society has a growing drug problem that needs to be fixed, but suggestions

on how to fix this problem is very limited. Drug addiction is a popular topic in the field of

psychiatry and medicine but not one research has been conclusive and solved the emerging drug

problem. Drug abuse especially among Latinos has significantly increased, raising ethical issues

concerning equality of individual rights, police injustices, unequal representation among

incarceration rates, and the ideologies that lead to these actions. Drug addiction among Latinos is

a problem that not only affects individuals but it affects society as whole, therefore when

thinking of a possible solution we must think of factors that are causing the problem.

Particularly, Latinos and Hispanics are currently America’s fastest growing minority

population, making up 17.4% of the total U.S population “(Drug Facts”). When speaking about

drug addiction, Latino populations show similar susceptibility to drug addiction as the general

population, but there are disparities in access to treatment and the quality of treatment received.

There are disparities that affect Latinos who are dealing with drug dependency that do not affect

other populations. For example, language barriers between a patient and a doctor may cause

misdiagnosis and misunderstanding of symptoms. (Singer) There are limited number of drug
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rehabilitation centers that have all information is both English and Spanish. Another great

disparity that does not allow Latinos to attain treatment is fear: fear of deportation, fear of being

stereotyped, fear of getting in debt, and fear for loss of privacy. Although these fears may be seen

in other populations, they are especially prevalent in Latinos. Fear of deportation usually comes

when an individual may not have a legal status in the country and is undocumented. Along with

being undocumented, it is difficult to have affordable health insurance, therefore comes the fear

of getting in debt. Not having documentation also makes a person fearful that they will lose their

privacy if they talk to a professional about their problem (Singer). Lastly, the fear of being

stereotyped comes after a person is diagnosed with a drug dependency and they are afraid their

family and friends will think of them less because of it.

When talking about drug addiction in Latinos, it is important to mention the ideologies of

equality. The term ideology in itself is difficult to define due to its complexity. Ideology can be,

“the process of production of meanings, signs, and values in social life,” or something opposite

like, “false ideas which help to legitimate a dominant political power (Ideology).” Although

these two definitions may seem opposite they tie together when talking about equality. The

ideology of equality comes with a notion that all people are equal to everybody else. The

Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are

created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that

among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The constitution states clearly that

everyone is created equal, therefore all people should be treated equal.

The ideology of equality makes us believe this we are all meant to be equal, but there are

certain privileges and advantages certain citizens attain more than others. For example, was the

constitution written with the intention to allow undocumented citizens to be treated as equal? If
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so, there would not be discussion of unequal treatment for drug addiction, as well as fair

representation in mental health studies. The term equality itself is contradictory as well because

equality does not mean equity. Equity is defined as the quality of being fair and impartial, which

is a synonym to fairness and justness. Equality is defined as the state of being equal, especially

in, “status, rights, and opportunities.” (“Equity”). When looking at this definition, it is difficult to

image that this is what the Declaration of Independence meant when they declared everyone is

created equal, and should be treated as equal.

Both equality and equity are two different terms that may seem similar to some. It is hard

for all individual to have equity in everything because of who they are, where they live, how they

look, and what their community is like. For example, person A is a white, American- born male

in a middle to high class household and is able to attend college because he has more resources

to get there. Person B is a Latino, American-born male living in a lower to middle class

household, and college is not as attainable because of lack of resources. The big differences

between person A and person B is their race and the environment they grew up in. They both

have the chance to go to college as they are both American born, but one has more resources

available then the other. The factors that they cannot change is what makes them not have equity.

A counter argument to this is to face these factors and just make it, but clearly that is easier said

than done. People have to face certain barriers others don’t have to and this is a huge thing to

consider when talking about drug addiction.

Although there are effective drug addiction treatment programs, most programs are not

culturally sensitive to different populations. Culture may influence a person’s desire to access

treatment, initiate care, avoid relapse, and sustain recovery (Kumpfer). Latinos tend to have very

close family niches and every decision a family member makes the family may become well
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aware of it. When discussing drug addiction, Latinos families may think that it is a “family”

issue and they don’t need outside help, but if there were to be a program that considers these

close family ties, drug addiction among Latinos could decrease. A program called,

“Strengthening Families Program (SFP) was culturally- adapted to African- Americans,

Hispanics, Asian/ Pacific Islander, and American Indian families (Kumpfer). The results of the

program showed that by making intervention programs culturally sensitive, retention of the

families increased by 40%. Family support is especially important when individual with drug

addiction lean on family for support. Latinos often do not seek mental health attention, especially

drug addicts because there is not enough program that will allow them to fully understand the

importance of seeking help while having family involvement and support.

Equality is not seen among Latinos who suffer from drug addiction especially when there

are disproportionate rates of incarceration when it comes to race. There are higher rates in

African American and Hispanic incarcerations. These rates have to do with police targeting a

certain amount of profiles when engaging in arrests, as well as where the arrests are made. For

example, there are certain communities where minorities are the predominate race, like

California or New Mexico. Therefore, in these areas there are going to be more arrests made to

minorities. On the other hand, in communities where African Americans and Hispanics are the

minorities, the disproportionate rates are evident. More than 60% of people incarcerated are

racial and ethnic minorities. According to research conducted by The Sentencing Project 1 in 17

white men will be imprisoned, while 1 in 3 black men will be imprisoned. For Latino men, 1 in

every 6 men will be imprisoned in their life time. This not only affects the individual but it also

affects families and its dynamics. There are 2.7 million children growing up in the United States

with one or more parents incarcerated, where 2/3 are incarcerated for non-violent offenses
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(Mauer). Incarceration has long- term consequences that affect chances of employment, family

formation, and the general quality of life.

The opportunities people have been often bounded by their surroundings, their

upbringing, and social powers among them. The ideology of equality among individuals is often

seen when there are powerful forces that influence where you may stand in life. When outside

things influence an individual it reflects their capability to do things, their motivation to be

better, their reactions to their surroundings rather than a person being completely self-centered,

self-creating, and self- constructed. The day an individual is born, their outcome is somewhat

suggested due simply to their location of birth. U.S born Hispanics report higher rates of drug

abuse, and dependence than Hispanics born outside the U.S. Some states such as Vermont,

Oregon (“Drug Facts”), Utah, etc. there are higher rates of drug addiction and drug dependency

then other states. Susceptibility to drug addiction may correlate to the opportunities individuals

have like employment, access to proper healthcare, culturally sensitive treatments, and equity to

quality of life.

Ethically, socially, and morally drug addiction is a problem that affects more than just the

individual at stake. It has become an issue that affects society as a whole because of its

emergence in the past years. In 2013, an estimated 24.6 millions of Americans aged 12 or older

has an illicit drug in the past month. This is 9.4 percent of the population, which is up from 8.3

percent in 2002. Since there are clear increasing trends, the question whether there should be

government intervention in drug addiction cases is raised. For example, should the government

pay for a person to enter rehab? Like a great percentage of Latinos, drug intervention may not

seem possible to its high monetary cost, unlike other populations who may be able to afford

treatment and not have the common fear that is associated with asking for treatment. Again, the
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ideal of equality is there if the government equally does not pay for either population to get

treatment. But, then the idea of equity is at stake because there are clear populates that can afford

treatment and some that can’t. Drug addiction affects individuals due to various reasons, but

there is no fair, equal, just, and equitable solution to this issue (Bronfenbrenner).

Although nothing has been developed yet, there are things our society and community

can do. First step is to bring awareness to these topics and to problems that certain populations

face more than others. Ideally we would need to have more doctors that are culturally sensitive to

different patients, that are bilingual so they can communicate with more communities, and be

aware of the different barriers people face. The questions here, is how do we develop these types

of professionals where they would like to work with a minority population and work in different

cultural settings? In order to bring awareness to these topics and develop professionals we must

target people when they are young. If there were to be a program developed for high school

students where minority professional talk to them and explain the need for culturally sensitive

professionals this can cause a positive effect in our society. Our society needs to be aware of

these things, and it is important to target the youth if we want to see a change in society. Children

are the future of this country and if children grow up with a different mentality, we hope one day

to not have these barriers that affect Latinos struggling with drug addiction. When developing

this program, we have to take into considerations which areas we are going to target. The way we

would talk to a high school in a lower class area, we may not be able to talk to in a high school in

a upper class area. A community that is in a more position of privilege may not be able to see the

significance of being cultural sensitive and understand the equalities different populations face.

Although there has been progress in minority research, there is no clear intervention

program that will fully allow minorities like Latinos comfortable to seek treatment. The first step
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is raising awareness and advocating for these things. We must educate our community and

showing them that by uniting it is possible to see the change we would like to see. If we lived in

a society that was based on ethics we may not see these problems, but in order for ethics to be

applied there will be people of power greatly affected. For example, if the government were to

develop a program that is attainable for minorities, that takes into consideration barriers they

face, this might upset people in higher positions of power. For example, if the government

develops an affordable insurance that covers drug addiction treatment for low income minorities,

this will cause a change in tax expenses. Taxes will always cause controversy because many

people don’t believe they should be paying for others to get better because it is not directly

benefiting them. There are also various stereotypes with drug addiction that say the individual

put themselves in that position, rather than seeing addiction as a mental illness. Unfortunately, all

of these things are considered before any governmental programs are developed.

Seeking drug addiction intervention programs are not a possibility when an individual is

not aware of the help, financially stable to do so, and fearful due to various barriers. The

ideology of equality is not seen among minority populations because some populations are not

born with special privilege where intervention seems more attainable. The ideology of equality

does not take into consideration the equity of the people at stake. Although the Declaration of

Independence states everyone is created equal and should be treated it is evident that this is not

the case for minorities who deal with drug abuse, and increased incarceration rates

(Bronfenbrenner). It is going to take the whole community to develop a solution, and it is

important to start with the youth of our society as they are the future of this nation. There is a lot

left to learn from Latinos struggling in drug addiction, but the first step is to bring awareness to

the disparities and barriers minorities face every day.
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Works Cited
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Bronfenbrenner, Martin. "Equality and equity." The ANNALS of the American Academy of

Political and Social Science 409.1 (1973): 9-23.

“Drug Facts: Nationwide Trends.” Nationl Institute on Drug Abus. June 2015. Web. 06 Apr.


Eagleton, Terry. Ideology: An Introduction. London: Verso, 1991. Print.

"Equity” Def. 1. Merriam-Webster Online. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.

"Equality” Def. 2. Merriam-Webster Online. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.

Kumpfer, Karol L., et al. "Cultural sensitivity and adaptation in family-based prevention

interventions." Prevention Science 3.3 (2002): 241-246.

Mauer, Marc, and Ryan S. King. Uneven justice: State rates of incarceration by race and

ethnicity. Washington, DC: Sentencing Project, 2007.

Singer, Merrill, et al. "Ethical issues in research with Hispanic drug users: Participant

perspectives on risks and benefits." Journal of Drug Issues 38.1 (2008): 351-372.