Substance misuse among adolescents in general, and Latinos in particular, continues to be of grave concern for public health administrators throughout the United States. Latinos represent the fastest growing segment of the American population, and research suggests that Latino youths are more often referred to outpatient substance abuse treatment centers than their White and African-American peers. Because of this, it is imperative to identify what factors pose the greatest risk for alcohol and drug use among the Latino adolescent population. Additionally, insight into what measures help protect Latino teens from this behavior could help form interventions designed to address substance misuse.
Jason J. Burrow-Sanchez of the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Utah recently led a study that focused on the issues that contribute to and protect from substance misuse among Latino youths. He enrolled 35 Latino teens into a traditional cognitive behavioral substance abuse treatment (S-CBT) program or an ethnically accommodated form of the same treatment (A-CBT). He assessed feasibility, substance use, and retention at baseline, at the end of the 12-week programs, and 3 months posttreatment. Burrow-Sanchez found that all of the teens had similar results on viability measures, but specific factors influenced substance use at conclusion and follow-up.
Both groups of participants had reductions in substance use during treatment and at the conclusion, and moderate increases in use at follow-up. However, the participants in the A-CBT that had strong baseline cultural identities and close family ties had lower levels of substance use at follow-up than those in the S-CBT group. These results suggest that certain cultural aspects may provide protective mechanisms for Latino youths at risk for substance misuse. Burrows-Sanchez hopes the findings of this study motivate future exploration into this dynamic. He added, “Further research in this area would help researchers and clinicians determine when a cultural accommodation or adaption is most likely to improve treatment outcomes.”
Burrow-Sanchez, J. J., Wrona, M. (2012). Comparing culturally accommodated versus standard group CBT for Latino adolescents with substance use disorders: A pilot study. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029439
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