Oralia Loza, Ph.D., Rebeca Ramos, MPH, João Fereira-Pinto, Ph.D.
The present project is a comparative research on contextual influences on drug using behavior in two adjacent cities located in the U.S.-Mexico border, El Paso in Texas and Juarez in Mexico— a natural laboratory for comparative research among Hispanics. Field observations and in-depth interviews with recent methamphetamine (meth) adopters allows for a comparison of how different social and structural factors may predispose or inhibit drug initiation. Methamphetamine, an addictive synthetic stimulant that affects the central nervous system, was selected as a prototype drug for the study. We hypothesize that different environments with different social and structural contexts may increase or decrease the vulnerability for initiation of drug use of populations living in the U.S.-Mexico border. We plan to explore contextual factors (such as family composition, intergenerational drug use, health delivery system, or law enforcement) to identify key facilitating or inhibiting factors for drug initiation that could be used in the development or adaptation of an early primary prevention intervention. Are aims are to (1) document current patterns of meth use, alone or in combination with other drugs; (2) explore the social context associated with the initiation of drug use; (3) explore the association of structural factors (violence, law enforcement, availability of jobs, etc.) with the initiation of drug use; and (4) use the research findings to develop a new intervention, or adapt and existing drug abuse early intervention.