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Drug use and discrimination among Phoenix area Mexican heritage youth
Date:12/14/2010

Washington, DC, December 14, 2010Perceived ethnic discrimination among Mexican and Mexican American students from Phoenix-area middle schools places them at risk for increased stress when trying to acculturate with mainstream U.S. culture, according to a new study. As the students experienced acculturation stress related to discrimination, they were at a higher risk for alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana use. The study is in the December issue of Prevention Science, a peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Prevention Research.

"As levels of perceived discrimination and acculturation stress increased with age, so did the risk for substance use," said lead author, Jennifer Kam, PhD, Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at The Ohio State University. The study followed 1,106 youth of Mexican heritage in 29 public middle schools in Phoenix, AZ through surveys in six waves from the 5th through the 8th grades.

"Acculturation stress is often associated with anxiety, anger and depression. It is a complex process that involves challenges and troubles that often stem from tension between one's native culture and the mainstream culture. These associations are particularly stressful when they involve discrimination, and youth may cope with the stress by turning to alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana," Kam explained.

"These findings emphasize the importance of addressing discrimination and may partially explain why national data on adolescent drug use has found that Latino students report some of the highest alcohol, cigarette, and other drug use rates in the country," Kam said. (Editor's note: This is based on 2007 data. NIDA will release 2010 data today)

Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the findings of this study are in line with what experts call "general strain theory," which states that individuals encounter strains (e.g., discrimination) when they are subjected to experiences that they dislike or feel a
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Contact: Prabhu Ponkshe
prabhu@preventionresearch.org
703-918-4860
Society for Prevention Research
Source:Eurekalert

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