The effects of drug use in the black family Essay

The effect of drug use in the black family


The effect of drug use in the black family conveys a huge impact on the psychological, social, and emotional well being of everyone involved. In the last five years over 500,000 black families have dealt with this issue. Every year abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol contributes to the death of more than 100,000 black Americans. Alcohol and drug abuse has led to severe disruption of the black family unit and a growing deterioration of the African American situation. Although the abuse of drugs is practiced across the races, it has devastating effects on African American families and communities. Abuse of drugs has led to problems and complications such as social and psychological harm, medical problems among others. Drug abuse has harmed the African American community through health problems, unprotected sex, deaths, motor vehicle accidents, suicides, and homicides just to name a few. Some of the most notable effects of drug and alcohol abuse in the African American family include:

·         Domestic violence

·         Juvenile delinquency

·         Imprisonment

·         Spread of HIV AIDS

·         Family break-up

·         High crime rate

·         Unwanted pregnancies

·         Poverty

·         Single parenthood & fatherlessness

·         Deaths

Domestic violence

            African American women report a higher number of domestic violence incidents to authorities compared with other races. A plenty more cases go unreported. The nature of violence varies from one family to another. The most common forms of domestic violence include the use of coercion, harassment, manipulation, deception, and force in order to maintain or establish full control over a spouse. Partners who use violence may use physical, psychological, and verbal means to obtain power from their spouses and control. Drug abuse tends to make someone lose control over his or her life. Since a drug addict cannot effectively influence his partner without using coercion, he turns to violence so as to obtain respect and control. African American families experience this vice at a higher rate in comparison to their statistical representation in the American population. Although socioeconomic disadvantages increase the possibility of domestic violence, drug and alcohol is also a major contributor to this problem. Alcohol and drug addiction makes husbands have less power or feel they have less power than their wives. This state renders such husbands physically abusive in effort to reinstate or establish power and control. Drug abuse coupled with domestic violence can have devastating effects on the family. This can lead to family break-up, family squabbles, imprisonment, serious injuries, and even death. (Human Rights Watch)


            Although drug abuse is more or less consistent across all races in the United States, the African American community experiences more adverse effects of drugs than any other race. Drug abuse among African Americans has a spiral effect on all the negative statistics ranging from domestic violence to rates of imprisonment. Punitive drug laws and American drug prohibition for instance leads to racial inequality and sentencing policies hit the African Americans hardest. Although the African American numerical representation in the United States comprise a modest twelve percent and thirteen percent of drug users, blacks comprise up to thirty eight percent of people arrested with drug offences and sixty percent of convicted drug felons. There are more African Americans in prisons than in all colleges. This is a shocking statistic. An estimated twenty three percent of African American prisoners are convicted on drug related charges. Drug abuse contributes hugely to the imprisonment of the African American people and especially males. According to statistics, more than four fathers out of ten in American prisons are African American. Among people convicted of drug related felonies, white are less likely to be sent to prisons compared to African Americans. Only an approximate thirty three percent of white defendants received a prison sentence compared to fifty one percent of African Americans. Imprisonment of black drug felons robs the African American community and family of one of the most important pillars of the society; the youth. As indicated earlier, there are more African Americans in prisons than there are in colleges. Imprisonment has also contributed to disruption of the family, prevalence of a fatherless society and single parenthood, inability of black folks to get decent employment and ultimately poverty. New laws on drugs do not seem to favor African Americans in any way (Siegel 2005).  For instance, before mandatory minimum sentences for cocaine came into effect, the average sentence for an African American was eleven percent higher than for whites. Four years after the implementation of these laws, the average drug offence sentence jumped to forty nine percent higher for African Americans compared to whites (Sabol & Heather 2008).

Single parenthood

            Statistics do not seem to favor African Americans on many fronts. With all factors held constant, African Americans tend to have higher negative statistics especially in the United States. African Americans rank higher in almost all negative statistics such as divorce rates, single parenthood, crime, murder, imprisonment rates, juvenile delinquency, and poverty. These factors intertwine and overlap with each other creating a steady rise of each aspect due to the effect caused by the others. For instance, poverty leads to drug abuse and vice versa. Drug abuse leads to violent behavior and consequently imprisonment. All this factors tend to have a ripple effect towards each other leading to a complicated and unfavorable situation to the African American community.

            African Americans are the undisputed leader in births to single mothers or unwed mothers. In 2005, the rate of births to unmarried mother among African Americans in the United States stood at almost seventy percent. This rate has been increasing for years leading to an increase in black fatherless children. Drug and alcohol abuse is one of the factors that contribute to single parenthood in the United States. The absence of a father poses more serious dangers to children than the society may be willing to accept. As indicated earlier, more than four fathers out of ten in American prisons are African American. Drug abuse could also lead to single parenthood through chronic addiction, abandonment, and addiction related deaths. Children from two parents’ families have been found to have a lower risk of engaging in crime, drug abuse, and juvenile delinquency. Children from single families are susceptible to violence, crime, drug abuse, behavioral and emotional problems, and a higher rate of school dropout. (Mumola 2000)

High crime rate

            African Americans are disproportionately involved in criminal activities. Approximately fifty three percent of African American males in prisons are sentenced for violent offences. Alcohol and drugs in general make people to behave in an irrational manner. Violent behavior is very common among drug abusers because of their irrational behavior and actions. Alcohol and drug abuse motivates a person to behave violently or engage in crime due to a number of reasons. Drug addicts may engage in crime such as theft and burglary in order to get money to buy the required drugs. Under the influence of drugs, gangs engage other gangs in shooting and violence leading to insecure neighborhoods, injuries as well as fatalities. Many members of African American families and especially males have lost their lives through irresponsible gang crime in the United States. Rather than seeing the foolishness of this violence and crime, drugs make their users feel masculine and important when they engage in such acts. Drugs as well as violence and crime have robbed many African American families’ members of their families either through imprisonment or death. Crime rates tend to increase in drug infested neighborhoods and vice versa.  (Jaffe 1975)

            As discussed earlier, aspects affecting the African American community overlap and impact on each other leading to unfavorable situations to blacks. The issue of juvenile delinquency or youth crime is one of such issues. Juvenile delinquency is a serious domestic problem in the United States today. Children below the age of eighteen commit approximately fifty percent of all property crimes. Juveniles also commit approximately twenty five percent of crimes against the person. These are huge numbers especially when one considers that the people committing these crimes are below the age of eighteen. African American juveniles are disproportionally represented in every crimes and delinquent acts categories. Poverty, family disruption, the state of fatherlessness, and drug and alcohol abuse are some of the major factors that cause juvenile delinquency. Drug use in itself is a form of juvenile delinquency. There are two types of delinquencies; an actual act of crime and juveniles doing things that they are not legally allowed to do such as drinking and driving. Drug abuse is therefore a form of juvenile delinquency. (Gray 1990)


            Despite the fact that the United States is a superpower and the world’s wealthiest nation, twenty five percent of African Americans still live in poverty. The wealth gap between African Americans continues to grow. Poverty rates in black single women are particularly higher. Drugs consume billion of dollars every year in direct and indirect cost. This cost is in terms of crime, sickness, absenteeism, economic cost, and mode prices. Drugs have the ability to render an individual completely useless. Drugs and alcohol addiction makes individuals not only poor but also makes them a drain to other people’s finances. (Dawkins 2000) It is very difficult or almost impossible for an alcohol or cocaine addict to lead a normal life. By a normal life I mean a decent job, a stable family, and pretty much that goes with being normal.


            Since the HIV/AIDS epidemic begun, African Americans have been disproportionately affected by this epidemic and the disparity continues to deepen with time. African Americans have the highest proportion of people living with HIV and AIDS than any other race in America. HIV/AIDS has had a disproportionate effect on African American men, youth, and men across the country. It is estimated that there are approximately 1.2 million individuals infected with HIV. It is estimated that more half a million of this people are African Americans. This constitutes around two percent of the entire African American population in the United States. Although blacks constitute approximately twelve percent of America’s population, they account for fifty percent of all AIDS cases identified in 2005. (Fleishman 2005)

            Drugs and alcohol abuse contributes both directly and indirectly to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Injection drug use account for one way of infections and transmission of HIV/AIDS. Apparently, the rate of drug injection transmission is higher among African American males than in white males. Drug and alcohol abuse could sometimes lead to irresponsible and unprotected sex. Alcohol and drunkenness is a major cause of irresponsible and unprotected sex. Some individuals have confessed that they got infected with HIV/AIDS after getting drunk and sleeping with commercial sex workers. HIV/AIDS prevalence among commercial sex workers is high because their business involves having sex with many clients hence the possibility of getting the virus is high. Intoxicated individuals may experience problems using the condom hence their protection level is low compared to sober people. This greatly increases their chances of getting infected with HIV/AIDS. When black Americans do get HIV/AIDS, their death rates are the highest compared to other races. In 2003 for instance, African Americans accounted for fifty five percent of deaths due to HIV related causes despite the fact that their level of diagnosis was lower compared to other races. Drugs complicate the health situation of a person with HIV/AIDS. They deteriorate his or her health and speeds up death. It is evident that drugs have played a major role in spreading HIV/AIDS among the black community. Many African American families are today living with HIV positive people. Though one can lead a perfectly normal life even when infected, the situation can be a lot worse if the infected is not corporative. (Fleishman 2005)


            Drug and alcohol abuse has contributed to a lot of African American deaths directly and indirectly. Most of the causes of these deaths have been discussed in this document. Below are some of the ways through which drugs have taken away lives:

Through drunk driving accidents.
Cigarettes are the leading cause of accidental fires in the United States. African Americans top the statistics in the rate of fatalities from cigarette initiated fires. Their figure, again, is disproportionate.
Through medical addiction complications.
Irresponsible violence and shooting due to the influence and drugs and alcohol leading to fatalities
Nasty drug battles between gangs trying to control a market.

            Every since the day drugs were introduced to America life has changed for many families, not only blacks. Getting an addicted person to stop abusing is just one part of a long and complex process. The social, psychological, and emotional well being of the black family is affected by the impact of drug use. Treatment, counseling and therapy are some of the many services needed to help the families with their vocational, medical, and legal needs
as they recover from the obstruction of addiction.


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Infected Adults in Care 2000-2002.  Medical Care, Vol.43, No. 9

Gray, Phyllyis. (1990) Juvenile delinquency in the black community. Missisipi State


Human Rights Watch, “Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs” (Washington, DC: Human

            Rights Watch, 2000) Retrieved on 22nd July 2009 from


Jaffe, J.H. (1975). Drug addiction and drug abuse. New York: MacMillan. pp. 284–324.

Mumola, Christopher J. (2000) US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics,

Incarcerated Parents and Their Children (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice)

Sabol, William J., PhD, Couture, Heather. (2008) Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prison Inmates

at Midyear 2007 (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice) p. 7, Table 10.

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            Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont.