Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse in the Hispanic Community | Prevalence, Risk Factors & Treatment

provided by Meghann Sepulveda

Substance abuse occurs when you use a drug in a way that disrupts your life. For example, you might drink too much alcohol, use a prescription drug in a manner not prescribed by a doctor, or use an illegal drug like heroin or meth.

These behaviors can seriously damage your health, relationships, and ability to function at work or school.

Prevalence of substance abuse in the Hispanic Community

In the United States, about 2.9 million Hispanic adults struggle with substance abuse.

Of those adults, 72% struggle with alcohol, 41% struggle with illegal drugs, and 13% struggle with both alcohol and illegal drugs.

Also, 48% have a co-occurring mental health condition, such as depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, or schizophrenia.

Risk Factors

Like the rest of the general population, Hispanic adults are more likely to abuse drugs if they experience the following risk factors:

  • Stress
  • Trauma
  • Mental health conditions
  • Peer pressure
  • Family history of substance abuse

In addition, Hispanic adolescents who have recently immigrated to the United States are more likely to use drugs than other adolescents. This is probably because they tend to experience greater amounts of stress, and, as mentioned above, stress is one of the main risk factors for substance abuse.


Most people who struggle with substance abuse need professional treatment. The most common treatments for substance abuse include:

  • Medical Detox, in which you’ll slowly and safely stop using drugs
  • Therapy, in which you’ll learn to manage drug cravings and strengthen your mental health
  • Support Groups, in which you’ll connect with other people recovering from substance abuse

Although Hispanics are just as likely to struggle with substance abuse as non-Hispanics, they’re less likely to get treatment. Often, this is because many treatment programs lack providers who speak Spanish and understand Hispanic cultural values.

Other times, Hispanics don’t seek treatment due to stigma. The term stigma refers to judgment and discrimination based on a personal characteristic.

For example, a person with a substance abuse problem may be judged as weak, lazy, or selfish. While stigma toward substance abuse occurs in all communities, some research suggests that it’s particularly prevalent among Hispanics.

If you think someone you love may be struggling with substance abuse, remind them that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Then, help them find a treatment program with providers who understand the unique needs of the Hispanic community.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — 2019 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Releases

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Hispanic Slides for the 2019 National Survey of Drug Use and Health

United States National Library of Medicine — Drug abuse risk and protective factors among Hispanic adolescents

United States National Library of Medicine — Ethnic disparities in unmet need for alcoholism, drug abuse, and mental health care

United States National Library of Medicine — Substance Abuse Prevalence and Treatment Among Latinos and Latinas

Article photos by Towfiqu barbhuiya and lilartsy from Pexels.

This content was provided by Meghann Sepulveda and written by Ark Behavioral Health – They provide all levels of evidence-based care to help you begin your personal journey toward recovery. Ark Behavioral Health’s goal extends far beyond sobriety alone; every therapeutic intervention we deliver empowers you with a sense of purpose and joy in recovery. Find more information and how to get help for yourself or a love one by going to their website at

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