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Study: Acculturation Stress Linked to Substance Use in Latino Teens


Acculturation stress may be part of the reason some Mexican and Mexican-American teens living in the U.S. report high rates of marijuana and alcohol use, Fox News Latino reported Dec. 30.

As part of a research project funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 1,100 Phoenix-area students of Mexican descent completed surveys assessing substance use and perceived discrimination over the course of three years (between fifth and eighth grade).

The study, led by Jennifer A. Kam, assistant professor of communications at Ohio State University, found that increases in perceived discrimination over time were related to increases in acculturation stress, which in turn were associated with increased risk of alcohol, pot, and tobacco dependence.

Students who had been in the U.S. for the least amount of time and those whose friends spoke predominantly Spanish were particularly at risk.

“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,” said Kam.

“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,” she concluded.

The study appeared in the December 2010 issue of the journal Prevention Science.

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