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Voices for Change: Substance Use and Addiction in Minoritized/Marginalized Communities

  • November 17, 2023
  • Diversity News and Updates
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By Fátima Reynolds, M.P.H., and Garsy Presumey-Leblanc, M.S.

APA President Petros Levounis, M.D., M.A., has prioritized substance use disorders and addictive behaviors. His goal is to bring together diverse constituencies to offer education, treatment, and support to patients, families, and practitioners. As well as to extend the APA’s reach to teachers, faith leaders and politicians.

Emphasizing the importance of addiction psychiatry, Dr. Levounis said in his first "From the President" column in Psychiatric News, “For too long, we have tended to separate addiction and mental illness – as if they were not related.”

To align with Dr. Levounis’ presidential addiction initiatives, DDHE is proud to announce its upcoming APA Looking Beyond Webinar Series – Voices for Change: Substance Use and Addiction is Minoritized/Marginalized Communities. An educational tool for psychiatrists, mental health practitioners and social service providers alike, this comprehensive series aims to shed light on the unique challenges faced by key populations bearing the burden of substance use disorders and mental illnesses.

APA Looking Beyond will be held virtually in September, December, February, and April. This series features distinguished multidisciplinary experts and thought leaders at the forefront of research and practice in the fields of addiction and clinical practices. Join us to ask questions, exchange ideas, and foster a collaborative environment to catalyze change.

“Recognizing that individuals from diverse backgrounds have compounded vulnerabilities and encounter barriers in accessing care and achieving positive mental health outcomes, this series represents a crucial step towards empowering psychiatrists with the knowledge and skills needed to provide equitable care for all individuals,” said Dr. Regina S. James, Chief of the Division of Diversity and Health Equity and Deputy Medical Director at APA.

The topics covered in the series are listed below and will each offer 1 CME credit for participation. Each topic will produce an accompanying podcast under the title – APA Looking Beyond Unplugged, which expands on each webinar topic with more in-depth and candid discussions.

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  • The Intersection of Race, Ethnicity and Sexual Orientation Status on the Prevalence of Vaping Among Minoritized Youth
  • The Unequal Impact of the Opioid Epidemic in the African American Community: Insights for Psychiatrists
  • Addressing Substance Use Disorder in the Hispanic Community Unpacking Sociocultural Risk and Resilience
  • Navigating the Virtual Crisis: Enhancing Awareness of Technology Addiction and its Impact on Suicidality in Youth of Color

As mentioned above, DDHE is seeking to align with Dr. Levounis’ presidential addiction initiatives. To begin this alignment, DDHE staff drafted a lengthy literature review focusing on each of Dr. Levounis’ addiction priorities and their impact on mental health. The data discovered was incredibly rich and enlightening and demonstrated that further research and action is needed.

This review found that Latinx and American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) populations experience alcohol use disorder (AUD) at the second and third highest rates behind white males and females. In fact, the AIAN population has the greatest heavy drinking rate at 12.1% with whites following second at 8.3% (Caron Staff 2023).

Black and Latinx Americans accounted for about 17% and 12% of opioid use disorder (OUD) cases and there are not the only vulnerable population. OUD disproportionately affects U.S. military veterans, many of whom suffer from chronic pain as a result of their service. Veterans are two times as likely as the general population to die from an opioid overdose, according to a study commissioned by the National Institute of Health (NIH) (Klobucista & Martinez 2023).

While non-Hispanic whites were more likely to report frequent use of both general and flavored e-cigarettes, youth (middle and high school) are being disproportionately affected as a demographic (Truth Initiative 2021).

It would also seem that youth are adversely affected by the various technological addictions. 61% of internet users are addicted and addiction is common among all age groups with the highest prevalence of 73% being among those aged 13 to 17 (Baruffati 2023).

The four addiction priorities may contribute to numerous mental illnesses, such as major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety, schizophrenia, suicidal ideation, etc. What is more evident is that further research and investigation needs to be done on the ways in which marginalized populations are adversely impacted and how to care for them.


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