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 Associations 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.
In 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 period.
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 accultur
Contact: Scott Akins
Oregon State University