Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Substance Abuse Treatment

A 2002 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), Unequal Treatment, found that minorities in the United States generally receive inferior health care and have worse health outcomes than Caucasians. Since then, there have been several efforts to understand and address racial and ethnic health disparities and respond to Congress' goal of reducing these inequities by 2010.

But such efforts are unlikely to succeed if improvements in substance abuse prevention and treatment are not achieved. For all Americans, not just racial and ethnic minorities, substance abuse is one of the most damaging, difficult, and expensive health problems facing the country today. However, there is a dearth of information available on how racial and ethnic differences might influence or affect various aspects of substance abuse treatment, including utilization of and access to services.

Understanding how racial and ethnic minorities differ in the need for treatment and how different groups obtain (or fail to obtain) treatment for their substance abuse problems is critical to achieving greater equality in health care and health outcomes.