True or false? Latinos are more likely to have a drinking problem than other ethnic or racial groups.
The answer is false. About 9.5 percent of Latinos have a drinking problem at some point in their lives, compared to 14 percent of non-Hispanic Whites (NIH).
Although Latinos are less likely to drink alcohol at all (abstain) than non-Hispanic Whites, alcohol abuse is a serious concern for Latinos for several reasons:
- Acculturation: As Latinos adapt to a new culture in the U.S., their behaviors are likely to change. Latinos that are more acculturated tend to consume more alcohol. This is especially the case for women. One study found that 75 percent of Mexican women who were new immigrants did not drink alcohol, while 38 percent of third generation Mexican-American women did not drink (National Institutes of Health).
- Teen drinking: Latinos have the highest annual rate of heavy drinking among teens (NIAAA).
- More drinks per day: Latinos who choose to drink are more likely to consume more alcohol than non-Hispanic Whites. A recent survey found that 42 percent of Latinos who drank over the past year had three or more drinks per day. This is higher than 32 percent of non-Hispanic Whites (NESARC).
- Long term drinking problems: 33 percent of Latinos who are alcohol dependent have continuing problems with drinking compared with 23 percent of nonHispanic Whites.
- Less likely to get treatment: Latinos with severe alcohol problems are less likely than non-Latino Whites to get treatment and to join Alcoholics Anonymous, although AA meetings are available in English and Spanish.
- Liver disease: White Latino men have the highest rates of alcohol-related cirrhosis (liver disease) of all racial or ethnic groups. [Compared to non-Latino Whites, Black Latino men have the lowest cirrhosis rates (NIH)].
How to lower your risk of alcohol dependence:
- Know your limit: Moderate drinking is one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Excessive drinking for women is over 3 drinks per day or 7 drinks per week. Excessive drinking for men is over 4 drinks per day or 14 drinks per week (NIAAA). These limits may be different for you depending on your age and gender and on whether you have health problems.
- Know your family history: Genetics can play a part in whether you are more likely to have a drinking problem. Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to have problems with alcohol.
- Avoid underage drinking: Young people who drink have a higher risk of having problems with alcohol use.
- Avoid stress in your life: When you are stressed, you are more likely to engage in pleasure seeking behaviors that can be addicting, such as drinking alcohol.
- Recognize the signs of alcohol abuse: craving alcohol, being able to tolerate more alcohol, withdrawal symptoms if you don’t drink (shaking, anxiety, seizures), loss of control and not being able to quit drinking.
Reviewed by Kelly Brown, M.A., Licensed Professional Counselor
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