CORVALLIS, Ore. – Substance abuse increases among recent
Hispanic immigrants as they replace their traditional cultural beliefs with
those of white Americans, according to new research presented today by Oregon
State University assistant professor Scott Akins at the American Sociological
Association’s Annual Meeting in New York.
The study surveyed 6,713 adults
in Washington – of which 1,690 persons identified themselves as “Hispanic.” It
is the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.
Previous research on
the effect of acculturation on drug use has been conducted in states with larger
Hispanic enclaves such as California, Florida and the Southwest. In these states
Hispanics are more likely to live in heavily concentrated ethnic communities,
which may slow their acculturation or assimilation.
The results were
striking. Acculturated Hispanics were nearly 13 times as likely to report using
illegal drugs as non-acculturated Hispanics. Acculturation involves the adoption
of new cultural information and social skills by an immigrant group, which often
replaces traditional cultural beliefs, practices and social patterns.
general, recent Hispanic immigrants are more family-oriented and have less
tolerant views of drug and alcohol use,” Akins said. “Although acculturation 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 shows that 6.4 percent of
whites reported using illicit drugs in the previous month, compared to 7.2
percent of acculturated Hispanics. However, less than 1 percent of
non-acculturated, Spanish-speaking Hispanics reported use in the same time
“Their percentage/general patterns of substance use are very
similar to white patterns of use, which is what we would expect given an
acculturation/assimilation model,” Akins said. “When Hispanics acculturate to
dominant American society their substance use behavior appears to mimic that of
whites, the culture they are acculturating to.”
The research also showed
that acculturated Hispanics were almost twice as likely as non-acculturated
Hispanics to report current binge drinking and more than three times as likely
to report drinking continuously for days in a row without sobering up, also
known as bender drinking.
“When people immigrate to the U.S., their
patterns of illegal drug use and alcohol abuse increase over time,” Akins said.
“In states such as California, you have large Hispanic enclaves that have a
protective buffering effect for new residents. But we wanted to find out what
was happening in Washington, a state with a relatively small Hispanic population
(only 9 percent statewide), which is disproportionately rural and
The study controlled for a number of factors, including
marital status, education level, poverty, and rural residence, among other
Akins is the lead author on the research, along with Clayton
Mosher of Washington State University, Chad L. Smith of Texas State University
and Jane Florence Gauthier of University of Nevada Las Vegas.
the researchers hope to find new ways to maximize the protective effects of
low-acculturation, such as the emphasis on family in traditional cultures, as
Hispanic immigrant populations will naturally acculturate over time.