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August 2017

What's New in Prevention?

Preventing Substance Use and Underage Drinking Among Latino Youth

As concerns are increasing regarding the rising opioid crisis striking Connecticut, communities are uniting to create multi-faceted strategies aimed at preventing youth substance use and underage drinking. A survey that collected Connecticut state-wide data has identified Hispanic/Latino students as being particularly high risk with Hispanic/Latino high school students using methamphetamines, marijuana, alcohol, methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) and inhalants at higher rates than their peers.

The survey also reported that Hispanic/Latino high school students reported using heroin and prescription substances at much higher rates than their peers. Hispanic/Latino youth reported using alcohol and marijuana before the age of 13 at much higher rates than their peers (Connecticut-Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015). 

In order to effectively prevent substance use and underage drinking among Hispanic/Latino youth, prevention strategies need to be culturally responsive and relevant. In helping to prevent substance use and underage drinking among Hispanic/Latino youth, the role of the family is important.  Best practice models of prevention take this into consideration. 

For example, some models look at the structure of the family, and use it as a basis for prevention, early intervention and treatment approaches.  Other effective models look at social and cultural factors, such as immigrant or refugee status.  For immigrant parents, it may be important to raise children in a bicultural environment that considers both the culture of origin and that of the family’s new home.  Another prevention strategy that can be implemented is the use of family-oriented, community-based models that help strengthen linkages between parents and youth and  their community.   More information on specific culturally relevant prevention approaches can be found here. Local prevention coalitions and providers can use these strategies as a basis for developing their own culturally responsive initiatives. 

While program staff may not be able to implement a strategy to the fullest, they should consider which elements of available practices can apply effectively to their work.  The most important commonality in these approaches is in building a strong relationship with the community that is served.  Providers can:

  1. Ask parents and families what they need and what ideas they have for preventing youth substance abuse.  As you build relationships and trust with family members,  it’s important to remember that families are experts when it comes to their own children.
  2. Consider the unique aspects of the population’s culture and how it might impact their efforts. 
  3. Learn more about the role of the family. 
  4. Ask how sensitive issues such as substance abuse are typically handled, openly or in private, and what messages young people are getting from the adults and elders in their families and the community.
  5.  Account for special considerations, such as concerns over immigration or the role of trauma that need to be factored in.
  6.  Always consider the local community in which staff is working, seeking to understand the issues they are facing and the particular dynamics of the community.  Build strategies that are responsive to all of these factors. 

To learn more or for support in developing a model tailor-made to address substance abuse in Hispanic/Latino youth and families in your community, please contact Kristen Granatek, Director of Prevention Initiatives via email or by calling 860.757.3531.

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