African-Americans and Alcohol
African-Americans are reported to drink less than their Caucasian counterparts. However, alcohol impacts the African-American community differently and can have extremely damaging and long-lasting effects.
African-Americans and Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol is the most widely-used drug in America and impacts different demographics differently, not excluding African-Americans. A 2010 Johns Hopkins study concluded 20.4% of African-Americans between the ages of 12 and 20 consumed alcohol in a 30-day period. As a result, alcohol consumption has been responsible for “contributing to 3 leading causes of death” in African-American communities recently.
African-Americans have been victims of alcohol-related illnesses, although alcohol consumption is lower compared to Caucasian-Americans. Historically, African-Americans have consumed lower amounts of alcohol, partially due to “religious beliefs and social disapproval.” This, however, makes many African-Americans more likely to be intoxicated under lower amounts of alcohol.
African-Americans, Minority Stress, and Alcoholism
Varying factors contribute to alcoholism in African-Americans, such as minority stress and anxiety or depression. Similar to the LGBTQ community, African-Americans endure unique social stigmas and violence due to racial discrimination. Social pressure to conform to behavioral expectations based on societal ideals, as well as projected prejudice is often a chronic source of stress and ill health. In response to higher levels of minority stress, coupled with the stress of daily life, some can develop anxiety or psychosis. Others can self-medicate by drinking alcohol and gradually increase their alcohol intake.
African-Americans and Alcohol-Related Health Problems
Although African-Americans drink less alcohol then Caucasian counterparts, African-Americans are more likely to suffer alcohol-related health problems. Death from conditions such as cirrhosis is “1.27 times” more common in African-American drinkers compared to Caucasians. Additionally, there is a “10% higher” rate of death from alcohol-abuse in African-Americans despite overall lower alcohol rates.
Hypertension, liver disease, oral cancer, major depression, and stroke from alcohol abuse are other common consequence of increased drinking. Lastly, because African-Americans are less likely to get help for alcoholism, it may further complicate alcohol-related health risks and lead to higher mortality rates.
African-American Youth and Alcohol Advertising
Alcohol adverting can greatly impact people being exposed to media. The Johns Hopkins study also focused on alcohol marketing in media to African-American youth. The connections between African-Americans and exposure to alcohol through music and television may have impacted the rate of alcohol consumption in the population. For instance, African-Americans aged 18 to 20 witnessed the following amount of exposure to alcohol advertisements compared to former years:
- 32% more advertisements with alcohol
- 22% more advertisements with beer
- 38% more advertisements with distilled spirits
- 92% more advertisements with alcopops (e.g. Mike’s Hard Lemonade)
Along with such findings, popular magazines in African-American communities featured twice the exposure of alcohol brands to African-Americans compared to other ethnic groups. Sadly, the effect is often the influence of young, vulnerable African-Americans becoming curious about alcohol, or trying it. The younger someone drinks, the more likely they will suffer an alcohol use disorder in adulthood.
African-Americans, Alcoholism, and Depression
Depression and alcohol abuse tend to compliment the other. According to statistics, African-Americans are “20% more likely to report serious psychological distress” when compared to other members of other ethnicities. Those most at risk are African-American men in a low-income community. A lack of a stable career can make him feel emasculated and develop continuous frustration. Since financial problems create stress and create feelings of hopelessness, many can find a false sense of comfort in the form of alcohol.
Perceived feelings of discrimination can add more anger to feelings of inadequacy. Feelings of despair and hopelessness often reflect underlying depressive feelings. Discrimination combined with feeling victimized by ignorance and anger is an ongoing frustration some African-Americans face. If they develop depression in response to internalized feelings, the alcohol intake can greatly increase.
Healthy Coping for African-Americans with Alcoholism
Since much of the alcoholism plaguing African-Americans stems from various factors like external social harm or internal battles with frustration, healthy coping is essential. A major element of healthy coping is identifying what alcoholism is being used to self-medicate. For example, if someone abuses alcohol because they have lost faith in their ability to overcome challenges, he or she may benefit from finding support groups.
Alternatively, support groups focusing on ethnic sensitivity can help to restore someone’s faith in humanity. Therapy is another healthy coping tool for many suffering unique emotional conditions. Spirituality or religious groups can bring a source of connection and empathy, encouraging positivity while enduring social prejudice and social stress. Releasing anger through social awareness and forgiveness can decrease internalized feelings of discrimination and racism.
Help Is Out There
African-Americans struggling with alcohol use disorders suffer on many levels, and unfortunately often do not get the help needed for recovery. Help is available, and caring treatment providers are standing by. Contacting a treatment professional will help the individual focus on getting the necessary care.
Future patients have the chance to ask about services best to assist them in achieving and maintaining sobriety. Future patients also can access medications and get treated for underlying conditions like depression and anxiety. Treatment providers can help future patients explore budget-friendly or cost-effective options for care. Take the next step and change your life today by contacting a treatment professional.
Clinical Reviewer — Last Reveiwed: October 2, 2019
NCBI.com. (2012). Excessive Drinking Among African-American Men: Individual And Contextual Correlates. Retrieved on January 1, 2019 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3391578/
Center On Alcohol Marketing And Youth. (2004). African-American Youth and Alcohol Advertising. Retrieved on January 1, 2019 at http://www.camy.org/resources/fact-sheets/african-american-youth-and-alcohol-advertising/index.html
Mental Health America. (2016). Black And African-American Communities And Mental Health. Retrieved on January 1, 2019 at http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/african-american-mental-health
NCBI.com. (2015). Less Drinking, Yet More Problems: Understanding African-American Drinking and Related Problems. Retrieved on January 1, 2019 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3758406/
ScienceDaily.com. (2014). Despite Lower Levels of Drinking, African-Americans Encounter More Problems, Study Finds. Retrieved on January 1, 2019 at https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140224204859.htm
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