, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 7-23
Date: 09 Dec 2009

Can Cultural Competency Speak to the Race Disparities in Methadone Dosage Levels?

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Abstract

Although national methadone treatment trends have improved substantially from 1988 to 2001, current research has found that African Americans still receive lower dosages of methadone treatment than their white and Hispanic counterparts, which has significant public health concerns. We sought to empirically examine whether the degree of cultural competency within an outpatient substance abuse treatment (OSAT) organization has influence on the methadone dosage levels received by African Americans in 1995 and in 2005. The 1995 and 2005 National Drug Abuse Treatment System Survey (NDATSS) provided a nationally-representative, stratified sample of 618 and 566 OSAT organizations, respectively, of which 121 and 140 affiliated methadone maintenance treatment programs, respectively, were analyzed. The organizations’ director and clinical supervisor were surveyed. Fixed-effects linear regression models were fitted with measures of cultural competency, client, and organizational characteristics to assess methadone dosage levels. Culturally-competent units have smaller numbers of methadone clients, greater percentages of clients who receive methadone dosages of less than 40 mg/d, smaller percentages of clients who receive methadone dosages of 80 mg/d or more, and provide a larger number of therapeutic and ancillary services during treatment than non-culturally-competent units. OSAT units with more African Americans are significantly more likely to have clients who receive dosages of less than 40 mg/d and are significantly less likely to have clients who receive dosages of 80 mg/d or more. There is no racial difference among culturally-competent unit clients who receive dosages of less than 40 mg/d, between 40 and 59 mg/d, between 60 and 79 mg/d, and 80 mg/d or more. However, among non-culturally-competent units, a racial difference exists among African Americans and other clients who receive these various dosage levels. Research indicating that African Americans receive lower dosages of methadone than their White and Hispanic counterparts may now be explained by whether these clients receive treatment in culturally competent organizations, rather than solely by arguments related to organizational differences in resources, experience and training of staff, staff bias and/or racism. Culturally competent organizations may seek a method of treatment that dissuades “replacing one drug for another,” while simultaneously treating the root cause of the addiction through the provision of comprehensive therapeutic and ancillary support services. Further research is needed to determine if cultural competency results in better substance abuse treatment outcomes for African Americans.