It’s a terribly hard truth to accept, but the strength and values of the Latino community may work against those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.  Above all, Latinos are supremely passionate about family. They look to each other for love and support. In matters of physical health, food, entertainment and relationships, they listen to each other. They are also proud, and place a high value on strength of character. Weakness is shameful. Drug addiction – and even treatment – is a sign of weakness and lack of self-control. That’s why so many Latino addicts feel alone, hopeless and abandoned.

Suffering in Silence: The Story of Andres R.

Andres R. is a 34 year-old Puerto Rican living in South Florida. He is married to a loving wife. His mother and friends are dedicated to his health, safety and happiness. But for many years he hid his 15-year addiction to cocaine and alcohol, overwhelmed by feelings of shame, guilt and weakness. Andres was spending a massive amount of money on drugs, draining accounts that his family needed to survive. Andres partied too much and often lost control. Andres’s wife and mother frequently rescued him from dangerous situations, pulling him out of bars, when he was too stoned and drunk to make it home.

Only 5.6 percent of Latinos recognize the need for drug treatment.


A manic-depressive from his addictions, he had just about hit bottom, when he confided in a friend, who, himself, had gone through treatment and was able to turn his life around. This friend introduced him to Cornerstone Recovery Center whose Community Relationship Specialists understood the cultural barriers to drug and alcohol recovery. Against all odds and cultural pressures, Andres began treatment at Cornerstone. When his family saw the difference in their Andres, they encouraged him to stick with the program. It was unquestionably a turning point.

As of this writing, Andres has been clean for six months. He holds a US Government position. His family has the “real” Andres back. He is able to support his wife and child. His life has meaning. He is finally happy. And looking at the bigger picture his success has opened up the eyes of the community that wants to know how he did it.

The Stigma of Addiction

As you can imagine, the story of Andres is the story of many Latinos. Their traditions, values and belief systems are their strength – and their weakness in the battle against addiction. Traditionally, shaming, punishment and the church have been seen as the cure.

As we have seen through Andres’s eyes, any sign of weakness is painful and shameful in the Latino culture. While the family is almost always there, there are places that the family does not go, including the issue of mental health. While marijuana is seen as a gateway to drug addiction – an unmentionable tragedy – drinking or “holding your liquor,” is part of becoming of man. It’s also a pathway to alcoholism.

Non-acculturated Latinos are less likely to be drug abusers.

Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse

Interestingly enough, studies have shown that more acculturated Latinos (versus those who have held more tightly to their cultural roots) are 13 times more likely to become addicted to illegal drugs! At the same time, alcoholism is a problem among Latinos where beer is abused by males and wine by females. Other factors that predict higher rates of substance use among Latinos include being young, unmarried, unemployed, and facing discrimination at work.

Furthermore, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by SAMHSA reveals the following key points about Latino vs. non-Latino drug abuse.

  • Combined 2003 to 2011 data indicate that Hispanics aged 12 or older were more likely than non-Hispanics to have needed substance use treatment in the past year (9.9 vs. 9.2 percent)
  • Hispanics who needed substance use treatment were less likely than non-Hispanics to have received treatment at a specialty facility in the past year (9.0 vs. 10.5 percent)
  • Among Hispanics needing but not receiving treatment, only 5.6 percent perceived a need for treatment

With Hispanics/Latinos being the largest and fastest growing minority group in America, these statistics will become even more telling in the years ahead –especially when this group not only lags in receiving drug and alcohol treatment, but also barely recognizes the need. Theses trends are ultimately linked to cultural issues, lack of education about drug an alcohol addiction and even language barriers, which can isolate segments of the population.

Outreach Makes a Difference

There are obviously many factors that weigh heavily against Latinos in the struggle against drug and alcohol abuse. Two key factors are awareness and education – awareness that treatment centers like Cornerstone Recovery Center are there for the Latino community and education about the threat of these diseases.

In order to accommodate and help those in the Latino community get help, Cornerstone tailors its treatment program in several ways:

  • Community Relations Specialists like Diego Giraldo, who has experienced firsthand the devastation that addiction can inflict on families. He now shows other addicts and families that there is a way out. He’s able to understand someone’s personal circumstance— which is key to getting effective treatment.
  • We speak the language. Employees speak to clients and their families in their native language if preferred. We offer one of the nation’s only multicultural, bilingual substance abuse and mental health treatment programs.
  • We understand the importance of family. Our team makes an effort to include the family at every step of the way. When families receive family therapy, they are encouraged to take an active part in the recovery process.
  • Offering and encouraging participation in group therapy programs like that are religious-based. Celebrate Recovery is a 12-Step program that adds religion to the mix to help people suffering from addiction and abuse. It especially works for people who want more of a personal relationship with God.

Vamanos, amigos! Get Started Today.

Cornerstone Recovery Center is fully dialed in to the needs of the Latino community. We work with you, live with you, treat you and, most important, understand you. We hope you’ll reach out to us today. Contact Diego at 754-207-9221 or visit us. The first step to sobriety is up to you.