Professors Research Drug Abuse Among Hispanics

This week professors from some of the top universities in the country are meeting at the University of Houston to discuss drug abuse in the Hispanic community. Their goal is to learn about new issues and approaches to the problem. Bill Stamps has more.
University of Houston professor Alverado Valdez has studied and researched the impact of substance abuse in the Hispanic community. He says when it comes to drug use, Hispanics and blacks really aren't that much different than whites, but the abuse seems to create more problems.

"It's not that the rates are so much higher among drug use, but the consequences are more severe, you know both health wise and criminal wise. For instance, if you look at our criminal justice system you can see that overwhelmingly and disproportionately the prison populations at the state and federal level is 3, 4 times higher than it should be if it represented the general population."

For the next two weeks, Valdez and the University of Houston are hosting other professors from around the country for the annual National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse training. The purpose is to share research methods, increase their knowledge of drug issues and promote their professional commitment to combating Hispanic drug abuse. One of their concerns is the affect drugs have on health.

"In the Hispanic community we make up 12 percent of the population, yet we make up 18-20 percent of all new cases of HIV. And most of it is related to drug use, particularly intravenous drug use."

Another concern is the rate of incarceration among Hispanics and how a lot of it is related to drugs.

"Incarcerating non-violent drug offenders is a very expensive way of dealing with this issue. Rather than incarcerating individuals like this, we should provide treatment, which would be probably one-fifth the cost and would provide better outcomes."

The training will last until the thirteenth. They don't expect to solve the problem in two weeks…just come up with more ideas on how to attack it.

For more information on this event, view the 2010 Summer Training Institute website. For more information, please call Evelio Escamilla, Institute Coordinator, (713) 743-8345 or e-mail eescamilla2@uh.edu.