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Women’s Barriers to Specialty Substance Abuse Treatment: A Qualitative Exploration of Racial/Ethnic Differences


To explore barriers to specialty substance abuse treatment programs among women with recent substance use disorders by race/ethnicity. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 28 women of White, Black, and Latino racial/ethnic descent who reported a substance use disorder in the past 5 years. Interviews were conducted by telephone and were audio-recorded. A codebook was developed using the Theory of Planned Behavior to code and identify barriers within the domains of attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived control toward specialty treatment. Frequencies for coded themes were then compared across all participants and by race/ethnicity. We identified several key differences in barriers to treatment by race/ethnicity. Attitudinal barriers were more pervasive among the narratives of Latinas relative to Black and White women. Latinas were more likely to report not needing treatment and that treatment would not be effective; Latinas were the only group to describe cultural barriers to treatment. Within the subjective norms domain, namely stigma and lack of support, were key barriers. Stigma was more pervasive among the narratives of Latinas and Black women than White women; Latinas were more likely to report a lack of social support for using treatment than both Black and White women. Findings provide deeper insight into barriers that may be contributing to racial/ethnic disparities in the use of substance abuse treatment among women.

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This work was supported by the National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (P50AA005595). MP’s contribution was partially supported by NIAAA (R01AA027767). YC’s contribution was partially supported by National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (Grant No. R21 MD011431). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Pinedo, M., Zemore, S., Beltrán-Girón, J. et al. Women’s Barriers to Specialty Substance Abuse Treatment: A Qualitative Exploration of Racial/Ethnic Differences. J Immigrant Minority Health 22, 653–660 (2020).

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  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Substance use
  • Latinas
  • Women