A Cross-National Study on Mexico-US Migration, Substance Use and Substance Use Disorders

Published in: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, v. 117, no. 1, Aug. 2011, p. 16-23

Posted on RAND.org on August 01, 2011

by Guilherme Borges, Joshua Breslau, Ricardo Orozco, Daniel J. Tancredi, Heather Anderson, Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, María Elena Icaza Medina-Mora

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BACKGROUND: Epidemiologic research has consistently found lower prevalence of alcohol and drug use disorders among Hispanic immigrants to the US than among US-born Hispanics. Recent research has begun to examine how this change occurs in the process of assimilation in the US. We aimed to study immigration, US nativity, and return migration as risk factors for alcohol and drug use among people of Mexican origin in both the US and Mexico. METHODS: Data come from nationally representative surveys in the United States (2001–2003; n = 1208) and Mexico (2001–2002; n = 5782). We used discrete time event history models to account for time-varying and time-invariant characteristics. RESULTS: We found no evidence that current Mexican immigrants in the US have higher risk for alcohol or alcohol use disorders than Mexicans living in Mexico, but current immigrants were at higher risk for drug use and drug use disorders. Current Mexican immigrants were at lower risk for drug use and drug disorders than US-born Mexican-Americans. US nativity, regardless of parent nativity, is the main factor associated with increasing use of alcohol and drugs. Among families of migrants and among return migrants we found increased risk for alcohol use, drug use and alcohol and drug use disorders. Evidence of selective migration and return of immigrants with disorders was found regarding alcohol use disorders only. CONCLUSIONS: Research efforts that combine populations from sending and receiving countries are needed. This effort will require much more complex research designs that will call for true international collaboration.

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