Discrimination and Alcohol Abuse

Discrimination and disenfranchisement is something that occurs every day in the United States despite America being the land of the free. While we have come a long way since the 1960’s and the passing of the Civil Rights Act, a number of minorities in the United States are still subject to discrimination. A sad reality that is likely to continue.

As you might imagine being discriminated against can cause insidious harm, dramatically affecting the course of one’s life. The effects of prejudice don’t just have an impact on individuals, it takes its toll on society. Those who feel the burn of one-sidedness can cause severe stress. Without the proper tools to cope with such stressors, people are likely to turn to unhealthy methods of survival.

Discrimination and Drinking

It is not hard to imagine that those who experience the pressure of prejudice would turn to drugs or alcohol to dull the stings of existence. However, until recently there had never been a review of all the existing evidence supporting such a postulation. Researchers have long known that those who experience significant physical or emotional trauma are more likely to have unhealthy relationships with drugs and/or alcohol—often resulting in addiction.

At the University of Iowa, a team of researchers may have found a link between discrimination and alcohol abuse, ScienceDaily reports. The findings of the study: “Discrimination and Drinking: A Systematic Review of the Evidence,” were published in Social Science & Medicine.

“We’ve had this idea that discrimination is associated with heavier drinking and drinking-related problems, but we didn’t have a clear understanding of the evidence underneath that,” said study lead author, Paul Gilbert, assistant professor of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the UI College of Public Health. “I wanted to uncover what we know and how we know it. What does the science actually say?”

Discriminating Research

Gilbert and his colleagues looked at 1,200 scientific studies that dealt with alcohol use and discrimination, according to the article. Of the 1,200, they focused on 97 peer-reviewed published research papers that identified a connection between discrimination and alcohol misuse or abuse. Seventy-one studies focused on racial discrimination, the remaining centered around sexual orientation and gender discrimination.

“The basic knowledge is now there,” says Gilbert. “The next step to advance science is to say what specific groups are involved, what specific type of discrimination are they experiencing, and what specifically were the alcohol outcomes. Was it just heavier drinking, or was it heavy drinking that led to dependence–or is it alcohol-related problems like getting in a car crash or work and family problems?”

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