U.S. Culture Boosts Hispanic Immigrants' Substance Abuse Risk

Rates of illegal drug use rose 13-fold after 'acculturation,' study found

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MONDAY, Aug. 13, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Adoption of American culture and lifestyle makes Hispanic immigrants to the United States more likely to use illegal drugs and abuse alcohol, a new study suggests.

The study of more than 6,700 adults (including 1,690 Hispanics) in Washington state found that acculturated Hispanics were nearly 13 times more likely to report the use of illegal drugs than Hispanics who adhered to their traditional culture.

Acculturation refers to the adoption of new cultural beliefs and social skills by an immigrant group.

The study found that 7.2 percent of acculturated Hispanics reported using illegal drugs within the previous month, compared to less than one percent of non-acculturated Hispanics and 6.4 percent of whites.

Acculturated Hispanics were nearly twice as likely as non-acculturated Hispanics to report current binge drinking and more than three times more likely to report "bender" drinking -- consuming alcohol continuously for days in a row without sobering up.

"In general, recent Hispanic immigrants are more family-oriented and have less tolerant views of drugs and alcohol use," study lead author Scott Akins, an assistant professor at Oregon State University, said in a prepared statement. "Although immigration and assimilation will provide some migrants with benefits such as wealth and job stability, immigration and acculturation can be a difficult process which has negative consequences as well."

The study was scheduled to be presented Sunday at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting in New York City.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about Hispanic or Latino health issues.

SOURCE: Oregon State University, news release, Aug. 21, 2007

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