The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Contextual and Cultural Influences On Substance Use Among Latinos in the US: The Social, Health and Services Consequences of Using Opiates

Friday, January 18, 2013: 9:30 AM
Nautilus 3 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Alice Cepeda, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Avelardo Valdez, PhD, Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background: Although Hispanics have disproportionately higher rates of heroin use in the U.S., little research has examined differences across Hispanic subgroups.  This presentation will provide an overview of how Mexican American drug users over the last six decades have developed a clear preference for heroin and a nearly universal use of intravenous injection with low rates of drug treatment. 


Methods: This paper presents qualitative interview data from three NIH NIDA funded studies with three populations of Mexican Americans: aging male IDUs, young adults that transitioned from non-injecting heroin use and young adult males who were formerly adolescent gang members. Participants were identified and recruited using street-based field intensive methodology.


Results: Findings reveal the importance of contextual factors such as historical influences, contemporary economic factors, and structural determinants in the etiology of these heroin use patterns.  Cultural factors such as the tecato/cholo subculture, intergenerational transmission and gender roles are also found as influencing the maintenance of heroin use among this population.  Discussed are the experiences by this population in regards to barriers to existing social and health care services access and treatment that are contributing to long-term health and social consequences.


Conclusions/Implication: Discussed is how community based social service groups and health agencies can integrate into their current delivery systems relevant substance abuse treatment and intervention strategies for Mexican American heroin using subgroups.  Findings support the development of effective treatment and prevention programs that take into consideration specific cultural and contextual risk factors associated with long term heroin use in Mexican American communities.