Front. Psychiatry, 12 November 2012 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2012.00098

Overview of substance use disorders and incarceration of African American males

  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Meharry Medical College School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, USA
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA

Incarceration affects the lives of many African American men and often leads to poverty, ill health, violence, and a decreased quality of life. There has been an unprecedented increase in incarceration among African American males since 1970. In 2009, the incarceration rate among black males was 6.7 times that of white males and 2.6 times of Hispanic males. Substance abuse in African American males leads to higher mortality rates, high rates of alcohol-related problems, more likely to be victims of crimes, and HIV/AIDS. African Americans comprised only 14% of the U.S. population but comprised 38% of the jail population. The cost of incarcerating persons involved in substance related crimes has increased considerably over the past two decades in the U.S. A reduction in the incarceration rate for non-violent offences would save an estimated $17 billion per year. Substance use disorder makes the individual more prone to polysubstance use and leads to impulse control problems, selling drugs, and other crimes. The high rate of incarceration in U.S. may adversely affect health care, the economy of the country, and will become a burden on society. Implementation of good mental health care, treatment of addiction during and after incarceration will help to decrease the chances of reoffending. Therapeutic community programs with prison-based and specialized treatment facilities, cognitive behavioral therapy treatment for 91–180 days, and 12-step orientation with staff specialized in substance abuse can be helpful. It is essential for health care professionals to increase public awareness of substance abuse and find ways to decrease the high rates of incarceration.

Keywords: substance use disorder, incarceration, African American, males, crime, alcohol, illicit drugs

Citation: Mukku VK, Benson TG, Alam F, Richie WD and Bailey RK (2012) Overview of substance use disorders and incarceration of African American males. Front. Psychiatry 3:98. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2012.00098

Received: 20 July 2012; Accepted: 30 October 2012;
Published online: 12 November 2012.

Edited by:

Shahi Ali, Meharry Medical College, USA

Reviewed by:

Lanny Hobson, Provant Healthcare, USA
Robert Marvit, Rehab Hospital of Pacific, USA

Copyright: © 2012 Mukku, Benson, Alam, Richie and Bailey. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: William D. Richie, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Meharry Medical College School of Medicine, 1005 Dr. D. B. Todd Jr. Boulevard, Nashville, TN 37208, USA. e-mail:

Present address: Timothy G. Benson, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478, USA.

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