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Researchers Discover How Low-Resource Communities Fight Substance Abuse

drugabusefightAuthor: Shernide Delva

In communities that lack access to formal treatment, researchers are discovering how effective support can be. Cocaine use has increased in low resource, low-income communities. However, surveys conducted in these communities find that those seeking treatment do so with support from family, friends and faith-based groups. A recent study conducted at the University of California, Riverside focused on how to intervene and improve substance abuse rates in these areas. They analyzed substance abuse interviews that were carried out between 2010 and 2012. The interviews took place in the Arkansas-Mississippi delta, an area characterized by low unemployment, low income, and high emigration. The area consists of predominantly African-Americans who emigrated to the rural area and are struggling in poverty. Ultimately, the study revealed several solution options that proved to be most effective.

Solutions such as

  • Support from family and friends
  • Education
  • Increasing access to employment
  • Encouraging a faith-based community

Lead researcher Ann Cheney, who works at the Center for Healthy Communities, stated that this particular community faces multiple obstacles that prevent them from accessing formal drug treatment. Still, she says that there are options for these communities that do not fit into the standard treatment route, and this community seems to utilize and succeed using those options.

“Despite these obstacles, many initiate and maintain recovery without accessing formal treatment. They do so by leveraging resources or what we refer to as ‘recovery capital’ — employment, education, faith community — by strategically connecting to and obtaining support from non-drug using family and friends,” she said.

The study was published this week in the journal Substance Use and Misuse. The study focused on how minorities who do not have access to formal treatment find resources that can resolve substance abuse issues. The concept is being called “recovery without treatment” and researchers are finding that it is a typical option taken in these areas.

Cheney continues to say that “natural recovery” is prevalent among areas where there is poverty because of the lack of resources available that would make treatment an option. Still, cocaine abuse continues to be a major problem in both these communities and throughout the country.

The researchers studied African Americans who resided in the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. Of those studied, 51 percent identified themselves as current cocaine users. They were between the ages of 18 to 61 and gender was spread equally. Those surveyed said they had not received any drug use treatment of counseling in the past 30 days. Each provided information about their perception of substance abuse in the community, their cocaine use history and their attempts to cut down or stop cocaine use.

Overall, Cheney and her colleges found that close to 72 percent of participants reported at least one attempt in their lifetime to reduce or quit cocaine use. When asked, their attempt to quit was motivated by:

  • Social Role Expectations– Desire to be better parents of caregiver. Prevent harming their children or loved ones due to their cocaine use.
  • Fatigue- Many participants were tired of the drug lifestyle and the effect it had on their physical and mental health.
  • Abstinence-Support Networks– Participants found support groups aimed at reducing cocaine use or achieve temporary recovery outside of recovery
  • Recovery Capital– Most participants had some access to treatment programs or self-help groups at one point in their lives.
  • Religion and Spirituality- Faith helped many participants reduce of quit cocaine use.

Ultimately, Cheney and researchers determined that recovery without treatment consisted of lifestyle changes and shifting social relationships. Cheney said the African Americans in rural areas faced personal, cultural and structural barriers that prevent access to formal treatment programs. Therefore, those eager to quit or reduce cocaine use find feasible alternatives based on relying on the resources around them.

Ideally, Cheney believes the best approach would be to increase access to resources in these communities that will allow residents to live a more conventional lifestyle. Examples of this would be better employment and housing. Also, they need to have the support of family, faith, and the community.

The study is continuing and plans to find more alternatives to other communities in the area. Treatment is not available for some, however for most; there are a plethora of options that make going to treatment a real possibility. If you are struggling, understand that there is a solution for you. Call today.

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