The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Exploring Incidence and Variation of Crack Use Among Latino Immigrant Day Laborers in a Post-Disaster Context

Thursday, January 16, 2014: 1:30 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 103B Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Nalini Negi, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Alice Cepeda, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Avelardo Valdez, PhD, Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Introduction: The demand for cheap labor in post-Katrina New Orleans has led to a rise in the Latino immigrant population from 4% pre-Katrina to 20% of the current population. Despite this immigrant population’s social vulnerability there is limited understanding regarding their risk exposure to drug use and other related risky behaviors in this post-disaster environment. This presentation will focus on the surprising emergence of crack cocaine use, previously found by other studies to be very low, among this population.

Method: Utilizing a rapid assessment methodology, in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 52 Latino male immigrant day laborers in New Orleans. Participants were recruited from day labor sites, were 18 years of age or older; self-identified as being from a Latin American country; self-reported use of illicit drugs during the past year; arrival in New Orleans post-Katrina; and living in the New Orleans area (at least 1 year). In-depth interviews were conducted in Spanish lasting 1–1.5 hrs. Analysis of the qualitative data consisted of defining the broad dimensions and specific variations distinguishing the patterns of crack use.

Results. Findings reveal that the prevalence of open air drug markets compounded by a post-disaster context has led to easy accessibility of crack thereby facilitating and maintaining patterns of crack use. Furthermore, a post-disaster context, social isolation, workers’ rights abuses, as well as violent victimization and theft were identified as contributing factors to drug initiation and periods of daily use.

Discussion. The emergence of crack use among this sub-group of Latino immigrant day laborers is particularly problematic from a public health perspective as this population tends to lack access to preventative and health care services. In addition, implications include this immigrant population’s potential to act as a ‘‘bridge for infection’’ in the spread of HIV and other blood borne pathogens.  The unique contextual factors influencing drug use among this population may be used to inform effective public health and social service interventions with this population.