Five Potential Reasons for Concern
Though limited research appears to have been done on the topic, there are a number of reasons why members of the Latino community may be potentially at risk to the growing use of methamphetamines in the United States. Below are five examples where available statistical data on meth use has been synthesized with information regarding the Latino community to highlight ways in which Latinos may potentially be susceptible to this growing drug problem.
Where It's Found
Though methamphetamine use has spread across the rural and urban sections of the South and Midwest and is beginning to hit sections of the Northeast, it has been a particularly substantial problem in the West and Southwest. California appears to be the largest supplier of meth, with an estimated 80 percent of the nation's supply coming from that state. An example of this can be demonstrated by 1999 DEA reports that compared 2,001 confiscated meth labs in California with only two in New Jersey, one in New York, and none in six other Northeast states. (Sanello: 88) Urban areas in the West including San Diego, Phoenix, Sacramento, and San Jose all lead the nation in adults arrested while testing positive for meth. (Lloyd: 3) In addition, metropolitan areas reporting the most methamphetamine related ER visits in 2001 were Phoenix, San Diego, and Las Vegas according to a recent study. (Lloyd: 5)
The reason this data is concerning, is the fact that Latino populations within the United States are most heavily concentrated in border states such as California and Arizona where methamphetamine use has exploded. This close geographical proximity may potentially be effecting Latino drug use behaviors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance study in 2001, though white high school students reported using meth the most (11.4%), Latino students were not far behind at 9.1% and were far more likely than black students at 2.1%. (Lloyd: 2) In addition, of those convicted of Federal drug offenses for methamphetamines, 59% were white, while 35.2% were Hispanic. (Lloyd: 4)
Another potential concern for Latino communities can be tied to overall socioeconomic status and the fact that methamphetamine is cheap and readily available. Though methamphetamine use covers all strata of society, it has been particularly prevalent among low income groups and in the past earned the name "poor man's cocaine". A gram of meth that would have cost $80 in 2001 by 2003 could be bought for as little as $25. (Sanello: 7)
Based on statistics showing the overall socioeconomic standing of Latinos within the United States being lower on average than that of Whites, the low cost associated with methamphetamine may be of cause for concern. The U.S. Census Bureau in 2002 reported that 21.4 percent of Hispanics within the country were living in poverty, compared with 7.8 percent for non-Hispanic whites. Hispanics also constituted 24.3 percent of the population living in poverty, while they represented only 13.3 percent of the total population. (Census: 6) These disproportional numbers may signal potential problems for the Latino community, as methamphetamines become cheaper and more readily available.
Increased Hispanic Gang Use
Another cause for concern among the Latino community regards increased gang use. Gang members from Southern California play an important role in drug trafficking in the country. Increasingly, Latino gang members are becoming involved in the sale of methamphetamines. Phoenix for example is seeing an increase in gang involvement in methamphetamine sales and Hispanic gang members are being arrested for meth more frequently than for crack cocaine. Meanwhile in Sacramento, Hispanic gang members have taken over the majority of the city's methamphetamine sales and production. (NAGIA: 2)
Risk of HIV Transmission
In addiction to hepatitis B and C transmissions, methamphetamine users are more likely to be at risk for contracting HIV, particularly those who inject the drug and share needles. In addition, psychomotor stimulants may increase the user's sexual desire, while meth users may also be more prone to rougher, longer-lasting, unprotected sex, thereby again increasing the potential for HIV infection. A recent study at Hunter College in New York showed that HIV-positive men reported much higher rates of meth use (39.2% vs. 18.9%) and 57.4% reported having had unprotected sex while using the drug. (Sanello: 4-5)
This increased risk of contracting HIV may be of particular concern for the Latino community, as studies have shown alarmingly high rates of HIV and AIDS cases among Latino populations. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 1999, while Latinos comprise only 13 percent of the total U.S. population, they represent 18 percent of cumulative AIDS cases. Also, though the number of new AIDS cases has decreased overall in the country, the decrease in the Latino population is much smaller than that for Whites. (Amaro: 301) These statistics may reveal a potential threat to the Latino community as methamphetamine use increases.
Latinos Not Receiving Treatment
The Department of Health and Human Services reported that from 1992 to 2002 admission rates to substance abuse treatment centers for methamphetamine use increased by 420%, particularly in the West. This report also showed an increase of 100 percent or more in 35 states. (SAMHSA: 5)
The potential concern for Latino communities regards receiving treatment for methamphetamine abuse. The same report identified that only 15 percent of those admitted for treatment were Hispanic. (SAMHSA: 5) At the same time, during 2001 of those convicted of a Federal drug offense for methamphetamine, 35.2 percent were Hispanic. Though additional data on the topic is limited, such a disparity between use and treatment may signal potential issues for Latinos, if adequate treatment for addiction is not received.