Opioid use among the Hispanic/Latino population is a growing concern. Although the groups of this population have varying levels of risk for opioid and other drug abuse, there are many factors that should be taken into account when addressing the issue.
What are Opioids
Opioids are prescription drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. Individuals who misuse opioids may not take them in the prescribed manner (e.g., taking larger doses than prescribed). It often begins when people misuse prescription pain medicines for nonmedical purposes. Over time, misuse can lead to addiction. The overuse of opioids is a major national crisis affecting public health, as well as social and economic well-being.
Overuse of opioids has been related to a rise in overdose deaths as well as the transmission of infectious illnesses including:
- HIV and hepatitis C
- Increased rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome
- Increases in crime
- Emotional trauma to families
- Higher Medicaid expenditures for the treatment of opioid use disorders (OUD) and related diseases
It’s critical to better understand how Hispanic/Latino populations are affected by the opioid crisis, including illicit drug use.
The impact of the opioid crisis extends beyond those actively using opioids. Affecting their family members, friends, neighbors, and other members of their communities. For most people who use opioids, the risk of developing an OUD increases over time as dosage levels increase.
Opioids are physiologically and psychologically very addictive. A person with an active case of OUD can be described as having an intense craving for opioids, finding it difficult to control their drug intake, using the drugs even though it causes problems at work or with relationships, and needing larger amounts of the drug over time to get high.
Opioid addiction or OUD is a chronic illness with the following symptoms:
- Strong desire to use opioids
- Difficulties in controlling opioid use
- Pathological opioid use despite harmful consequences
- Decreased participation in important activities
- Tolerance (needing higher doses to achieve the same effect or smaller doses to avoid withdrawal symptoms)
- Withdrawal symptoms when stopping opioid use
Opioid Use Among Hispanic/Latinos
In the past ten years, there has been a significant increase in the number of Hispanic/Latino people affected by opioid use disorder (OUD) and overdose.
Hispanic/Latinos face many barriers to receiving treatment for opioid use disorders. Including limited access to health care, language or cultural issues, stigma, concerns about legal status, and lack of knowledge about available programs.
Studies have shown that Latinos are less likely than other ethnicities to misuse or abuse prescription opioids. However, Latino populations have the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the US compared to any other ethnic group. Hispanic/Latino populations also have high rates of illicit substance misuse. For these reasons, it’s essential for healthcare providers to learn about potential risk factors for opioid addiction among Latinos. As well as how to talk about signs and symptoms of misuse.
Additionally, some of the other risk factors more common among Hispanic/Latino individuals include; mental health conditions, chronic pain, and lower access to health care.
Bringing Awareness to the Opioid Crisis
One of the most important ways to prevent and treat opioid use disorder (OUD) is to increase public awareness of the opioid epidemic. Particularly among at-risk populations like Hispanics/Latinos.
The CDC is working with states and communities to develop data-driven approaches that address the needs of Hispanic/Latino populations.
- Supporting nationwide syringe services programs (SSPs) that are tailored to reach Hispanic/Latino populations.
- Developing public health campaigns in Spanish that promote safe medication use, storage, and disposal to prevent opioid misuse and abuse.
- Working with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to make data about drug use among Hispanics/Latinos available on the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) website.
Countless people of all ages, races, and socio-economic backgrounds are victims of the opioid epidemic, which has been stealing the lives of so many. We cannot ignore or deny this public health crisis. It’s time to come together as a society and continue to find ways to address this issue by bringing increased awareness to all those who have suffered from opioid and other substance misuse disorders.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, contact the Harm Reduction Center today. HARC is a private healthcare facility that offers addiction treatment, as well as mental health services for every client that walks through the door. Our mission is to help everyone and anyone no matter their background or walk of life. Contact us today and break free from your addiction.