Black male substance abusers: Factors that predict their abuse

Omar Gamal Reid (2001)

The present study examines the relationship between racial identity attitudes and beliefs, and substance abuse in a sample of male African-American veterans. An underlying premise of this study is that Black males are more likely to abuse substance when they have low racial identities, attitudes, and beliefs. The specific hypotheses to be tested are: (1) Black males are more likely to be substance abusers when they have higher levels of cultural mistrust, which is the mistrust of Whites and White institutions, as measured by the Cultural Mistrust Inventory. (2) Black males are more likely to be substance abusers when they are more acculturated in African-American society, which is termed traditionally acculturated, as measured by the African-American Acculturation Scale. (3) Black males are more likely to be substance abusers when they have lower levels of racial identity as measured by the Racial Identity Attitude Scale. Individuals who are assessed to be in the pre-encounter or encounter stage are considered to have lower levels of racial identity. Racial identity refers to how the individual views his/her cultural/ethnic heritage and community. It has been suggested that substance abuse is a means of achieving psychological release from chronic social and economic problems and can be related to the loss of cultural identity (Kesmanee, 1994). Deviant behavior such as substance abuse may also be related to cultural mistrust (Taylor, Biafora, & Warheit, 1994). Additionally, the role of acculturation and racial identity has been shown to have a significant effect on behavior (Klonoff & Landrine, 1999). Pena and Koss-Chioino (1992) contend that studies on substance abuse must take into account the cultural characteristics of the ethnic group under investigation to ensure an adequate degree of internal validity and generalizability. The findings reported in this study point to racial identity attitudes and beliefs as predictors of Black male veteran substance abuse status. The implications of the findings should give substance abuse providers the important documentation to support the assertion that attention must be paid to fostering positive racial identity attitudes and beliefs in the treatment process. Substance abuse in this study includes drugs and alcohol.