Hispanics and Alcohol

Hispanic alcoholism

Alcohol and Culture

When it comes to Hispanics and alcohol — problems with alcohol, Ideas about alcohol and treatment for alcohol dependence — are Hispanics different from non-Hispanic whites? Statistics show differences, even differences among Hispanic groups. There are differences between Mexican drinkers and Puerto Rican drinkers, Puerto Rican drinkers and Cuban drinkers, female Puerto Rican drinkers and female Mexican drinkers, and so forth.

Studies show that cultural attitudes play a role in how problems with alcohol are perceived and how often each group seeks treatment. Hispanics have a higher rate of total abstinence, in general, but also a higher rate of binge drinking among Hispanics who do drink alcohol. This is from NIH:

Acculturation

Acculturation is the process of adapting to the beliefs, values, and behaviors of a new culture. A critical factor in predicting drinking patterns in the Hispanic community is level of acculturation.

Living and working in the United States, raising families here, speaking English, and above all, getting an American education all contribute to adapting to American culture. But as acculturation levels increase, so can alcohol consumption. The evidence is clear that as women become acculturated to American life, they tend to drink more alcohol. There is mixed evidence of the same effect for men.

Gender

In traditional Hispanic culture, women typically do not drink alcohol outside of small family gatherings or other private settings. For Hispanics in the United States, though, this cultural norm is changing. Recent evidence shows some young Hispanic women are drinking as much or even more than young Hispanic men.

Attitudes

Research shows that young, U.S.-born Hispanic men who are not Protestant tend to have relaxed attitudes toward drinking. Those who feel this way also are more likely to drink, to drink heavily, and to possibly have alcohol-related problems. Within the Hispanic community, Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans tend to have more relaxed attitudes about drinking than Cuban Americans.

These differences are good to know when treating Hispanics for problems with alcohol, but the basics of treatment remain the same. If Hispanic culture places more importance on personal responsibility than the disease concept of alcoholism, for instance, the treatment professional has to combine the two concepts so that the Hispanic client understands accepting alcoholism as a chronic brain disease doesn’t relieve the alcoholic from responsibility. We’re all responsible for dealing with our problems and to do what’s necessary to manage recovery.