Mexican immigrants in the US do not have increased risk for alcohol use or alcohol use disorders when compared to Mexicans living in Mexico, but they are at higher risk for drug use and drug use disorders. It has been suggested that both availability and social norms are associated with these findings. We aimed to study whether the opportunity for alcohol and drug use, an indirect measure of substance availability, determines differences in first substance use among people of Mexican origin in both the US and Mexico, accounting for gender and age of immigration.
Data come from nationally representative surveys in the United States (2001–2003) and Mexico (2001–2002) (combined n = 3432). We used discrete time proportional hazards event history models to account for time-varying and time-invariant characteristics. The reference group was Mexicans living in Mexico without migration experience.
Female immigrants were at lower risk of having opportunities to use alcohol if they immigrated after the age of 13, but at higher risk if they immigrated prior to this age. Male immigrants showed no differences in opportunity to use alcohol or alcohol use after having the opportunity. Immigration was associated with having drugs opportunities for both sexes, with larger risk among females. Migration was also associated with greater risk of using drugs after having the opportunity, but only significantly for males.
The impacts of immigration on substance use opportunities are more important for drugs than alcohol. Public health messages and educational efforts should heed this distinction.
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