A cross-cultural study of the prevalence and correlates of student drug use in the United States and Mexico

Sections

Method
Results
Discussion
Correlates of drug use
Student attitudes toward drug use, users, and social issues
Summary
Bibliography

Details

Author: David WELLISCH
Pages: 31 to 42
Creation Date: 1974/01/01

A cross-cultural study of the prevalence and correlates of student drug use in the United States and Mexico

M.A. David WELLISCH
University of Houston and J. Ray HAYS, Ph.D

Texas Research Institute of Mental Sciences, Houston

Drug abuse and drug dependence are increasingly being considered international rather than national problems. Cameron (1968) has conceptualized abuse and dependence as a large scale communicable disorder where the host paradoxically seeks out the agent. Recent epidemiological patterns, on a global scale, point to diverse areas of the world where drug abuse has become a major problem. Peck and Diaz-Guerrero (1967) found in a study of value systems in Mexican and United States college-age youth that students, especially from border zones, showed a diffusion of values and differed more from either "core culture pattern" than the core patterns differed from each other. It is therefore reasonable to assume that a diffusion of values, in reference to attitude about drugs, and in use of illicit and non-illicit chemical substances, should begin to emerge between Mexican and United States youth. This should be especially true in border zone areas.

Latin America in general, and Mexico in particular, have long been concerned with the damaging effects of chemical abuse, especially those of alcohol. In 1960 a Latin American Seminar on Alcoholism, sponsored by the Pan American Sanitary Office of the World Health Organization, was held in Chile. According to this conference, the prevalence of alcoholism among adults in Mexico, age twenty or over, was about 3.5 per cent. Millan (1962), in his role as Director of Mental Health and Rehabilitation for Mexico, stated that there were 4,420 alcoholics per 100,000 population, of those over 20 years of age. Barra (1966), in a survey on the effects of alcohol on Mexican society, views it as a major cause of absenteeism in industry and accidents on the job. Alcoholism in Mexico is seen by Narvaez (1970) as a social entity stemming from problems in the nuclear family groups, and thereby often leading to juvenile deliquency in the offspring of the alcoholic patient.

Fromm and Maccoby (1970) deal with alcoholism as a part of their larger socio-psychoanalytic study of the Mexican village. They feel that alcoholism is a critical problem for the Mexican peasant village with 18 per cent of the men over 20 years of age who are alcoholic. Alcoholism is classed as a principal precipitator of violence and broken homes in Mexican village life, and is seen as undermining those institutions such as the nuclear family that might potentially improve the villager's existence. Fromm and Maccoby hold as their basic hypothesis that as the breakdown of the patriarchal structure occurs in Mexican society, the male becomes more vulnerable to alcoholism. This agrees with the conceptualizations drawn from a cross-cultural study in drunkenness by Field (1962).

In a study of the conscious motivations of marijuana smoking adolescents in Chile, Gomberoff, Florenzano and Thomas (1972) found the search for a psychotomimetic effect and curiosity as the motive in the majority of cases. This study also found that 6.9 per cent of the population of 732 sampled had ever smoked marijuana, and of those who did smoke marijuana, males outnumbered females by more than 2 to 1.

A study of 163 drug involved youths in El Salvador (Panameño, 1972) showed a 9 to 1 male-female ratio. Of these youths 55.7 per cent attended private schools or universities, indicating wealth or affluence as a significant co-variate with drug use in E1 Salvador. Analysis of the problems of North American adolescents led Diaz (1970) to speculate that drug abuse is a critical social problem for young people, but that the North American adults large scale use of alcohol and other drugs was an even greater social problem, and a negative example for the adolescents to follow. Observing many of the same conflicts emerging in Mexican society as have already emerged in United States society, Diaz postulates that the strong potential for drug abuse among Mexican adolescents is a maladaptive quest for solutions to family, occupational, and value system problems.

Hays (1970) under the auspices of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) Drug Education Committee, conducted an extensive survey of 5,908 students in grades 7 through 12 in 55 secondary schools on the nature and extent of their drug use. The data demonstrated that drug use increased across grade levels reaching a peak in the 12th grade. Alcohol and tobacco were the most used substances, and marijuana was the third most widely used substance. The over-all percentage of marijuana use was 22 per cent, but 48 per cent of 12th grade males had used marijuana one or more times. Opiates or cocaine had the lowest over-all use of the substances reported, with a total of 5 per cent of the students indicating use at least one time. Males were more likely to have used drugs and continue to use them than females. Anglos showed the highest prevalence of drug use, with Mexican-Americans next, and Blacks reporting lowest use. The socioeconomic co-variates in this study are consistent with the results of the previously discussed Latin American studies. It was found that the higher the educational level of the parents, the more likely the child is to have used drugs and report continued use of drugs.

The present study was carried out in a Monterrey, Mexico, school setting. It was an attempt to obtain baseline data on drug use, as well as socioeconomic and attitudinal co-variates of drug use in Mexico. The second, and perhaps primary intent of this study, was to make cross-cultural comparisons of the Monterrey data and the Houston (Hays, 1970, 1971) surveys in an attempt to delineate potential trends and co-variates which influence student drug use and abuse on an international basis.

Method

The sample. The study was conducted with a sample of 229 subjects, 172 males and 57 females, who ranged in age from 15 to 18. The grade levels of the Mexican students were equivalent to grades 9 through 12 in the United States system. All were enrolled in a parochial school in a middle class neighbourhood in Monterrey, Mexico. This school has a college preparatory programme, and did not segragate boys from girls in separate classroom buildings. Table 1 contains the breakdown of the Monterrey sample of students by age and sex. This sample was compared to the HISD sample of students in grades 10, 11, and 12, which was a random cluster sample composed of 2,277 students approximately equally divided between males and females. The ethnic composition of this sample of students was approximately as follows: Anglo, 51 per cent; Black, 32 per cent; Mexican-American, 11 per cent; and others, 6 per cent (Indians, Orientals, etc.).

Instrument. The instrument used in the Monterrey, Mexico study was basically the 88 item questionnaire designed by Hays (1971) for use in the Houston Independent School District survey. The format of the questionnaire was multiple choice with thfirst twenty-seven questions designed to show the frequency of use of nine categories of substances during three time periods. The nine categories of substances were as follows: marijuana, hallucinogens, opiates or cocaine, tobacco, alcohol, cough syrup, solvents, barbiturates and stimulants. The three time periods were as follows: ever used, used in the past six months, and used in the past seven days. In addition to the drug use items there were sixty items devoted to demographic, attitudinal, and factual variables. One item concerning Texas marijuana laws was not relevant to the Mexican population and was deleted. Two items were altered between the Houston and Monterrey surveys. These items both asked "of the following, what do you think is the most important issue facing young people today?", and each gave five options clearly relevant to United States youth, but in part irrelevant to Mexican youth. The options were altered to facilitate relevance to a Mexican youth population. The survey was translated into Spanish by faculty members of the Spanish department at the University of Houston, and back-translated into English to check for errors by a Mexican-American staff member of the Drug Abuse Clinic at the Texas Research Institute of Mental Sciences

TABLE 1

Demographic tabulation of age and sex in the sample of Monterrey students

Variable

Number

Per cent

Age
   
15 76 35.7
16 87 40.9
17 28 13.1
18 22 10.3
Blank
19  
Sex
   
Male
172 75.1
Female
57 24.9
Blank
3  

Procedure. The survey was conducted at one school in Monterrey, Mexico, with the aid of the school administrators. This school was divided into two separate groups, one meeting in the morning, one in the late afternoon. Eight classes were selected randomly by both the day and evening class directors to represent the equivalent of 9th through 12th grades in the Houston sample. A group administration procedure was used, and a standard set of instructions was given to each class by a University of Monterrey female graduate student in psychology, who also answered all questions from the students pertaining to the testing procedure. The classroom teachers and school administrative personnel either left the site of testing during the actual procedure, or in some cases remained seated at the front of the classrooms. At no time did they circulate through the classrooms as the students filled out their individual questionnaires. This survey was anonymous; thus the students were not ego involved to the extent that they might alter the report of their drug use because of fear of self-incrimination. The answer sheets were designed in such a way that each response the student gave could be immediately hidden by placing the answer sheet under the booklet of the 87 items on the survey. The methodology of sampling and administration of the questionnaire were similar in both the Houston and Monterrey surveys to facilitate comparison of data from the two countries.

Results

The results of the drug use items by age and sex are found in tables 2, 3, and 4. Only two females of age 18 completed the survey and hence no data are listed for that age and sex. Table 5 compares drug use between the Monterrey and Houston samples for the three time periods.

The most frequently used of the nine substances is tobacco with 73.8 per cent of the Monterrey students ever having used it. This is a significantly higher use than that reported in the Houston sample, where 59 per cent of the students had smoked tobacco. There is no general increase in use of tobacco by age in the Monterrey sample. This is inconsistent with the Houston sample where there is a trend of increased use of substances by successive ages or grade levels.

TABLE 2

Percentage of students by age and sex who have ever used the listed substance

 

15

16

17

18

 

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

Over-all

Tobacco
68.0 56.0 88.1 52.9 68.4 77.8 95.0 73.8
Alcohol
54.9 20.0 80.6 11.8 61.1 33.3 95.0 58.9
Marijuana
7.8 0.0 16.2 5.6 15.8 0.0 40.0 12.9
Cough syrup
2.0 0.0 14.7 0.0 5.3 11.1 10.0 7.3
Solvents
4.0 0.0 7.4 5.6 5.3 0.0 5.0 4.8
Stimulants
0.0 0.0 4.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 25.0 4.7
Hallucinogens
0.0 0.0 2.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 15.0 3.5
Barbiturates
0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 10.0 1.7
Opiates or cocaine
0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.9

TABLE 3

Percentage of students by age and sex who have used the listed substance in the past six months

 

15

16

17

18

 

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

Over-all

Tobacco
64.7 44.0 83.3 50.0 42.1 77.8 75.0 66.9
Alcohol
41.2 16.0 72.1 0.0 63.2 11.1 80.0 50.1
Marijuana
5.9 0.0 10.3 5.6 10.5 0.0 35.0 10.5
Cough syrup
2.0 0.0 4.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 10.0 2.6
Stimulants
0.0 0.0 2.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 15.0 2.6
Solvents
0.0 0.0 1.5 0.0 5.3 0.0 5.0 1.3
Hallucinogens
0.0 0.0 1.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 5.0 0.9
Barbiturates
0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 5.0 0.9
Opiates or cocaine
0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4

TABLE 4

Percentage of students by age and sex who have used the listed substance in the past seven days

 

15

16

17

18

 

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

Over-all

Tobacco
47.1 28.0 66.2 35.3 47.4 66.7 68.4 52.6
Alcohol
8.9 0.0 38.8 0.0 27.8 11.1 60.0 24.9
Marijuana
0.0 0.0 5.9 0.0 5.6 0.0 30.0 5.2
Cough syrup
0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 5.0 0.4
Solvents
0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 5.0 0.4
Stimulants
0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Hallucinogens
0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Barbiturates
0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Opiates or cocaine
0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0

TABLE 5

Comparison between Monterrey and Houston samples of use of the listed substances

 

Ever used percentage

Use in past six month percentage

Use in past seven days percentage

Substance

Monterrey

Houston

Monterrey

Houston

Monterrey

Houston

Tobacco
73.8 59.3 66.9 46.6 52.6 30.9
Alcohol
58.9 77.9 50.1 71.6 24.9 39.5
Marijuana
12.9 45.7 10.5 38.8 5.2 26.0
Cough syrup
7.3 9.9 2.6 8.5 0.4 3.0
Stimulants
4.8 27.8 2.6 20.9 0.0 10.1
Solvents
4.7 12.1 1.3 9.6 0.4 2.2
Hallucinogens
3.5 19.1 0.9 12.0 0.0 4.2
Barbiturates
1.7 24.5 0.9 19.0 0.0 9.4
Opiates or cocaine
0.9 13.8 0.4 4.9 0.0 3.9

Alcohol was the second most widely used substance by the Monterrey sample, with 58.9 per cent of students reporting use. Alcohol was the most used substance in the Houston survey with 85 per cent of males and 72 per cent of females having used it by grade 12.

The third most widely used substance in both the Monterrey and Houston samples was marijuana. In the former sample, 12.9 per cent of the students reported use versus 46 per cent of students in the Houston sample. Almost half of the Monterrey youth who reported use of marijuana stated they had used it ten or more times. This finding is consistent with the data generated in Houston where slightly more than half of the students who had used marijuana once had used it ten or more times. This would indicate that in both cultures there is a given proportion of students who proceed beyond experimentation once they are introduced to the use of marijuana.

The fourth most used substance by the Monterrey sample was cough syrup, with 7.3 per cent of students reporting use. Use of cough syrup at age 17 is the only instance in the sample where female drug use exceeds male use (11.1 per cent female to 5.3 per cent male). In addition this was the only age bracket where females reported use of cough syrup. With reported use of 10 per cent cough syrup was the fifth most widely used substance among the Houston students where, at ages 13 and 16, its use by females exceeded that of males.

The fifth most used substance by the Monterrey sample was solvents, with 4.8 per cent of students reporting use. Females report use of solvents at age 16 only. Use of solvents reaches a peak for the Monterrey male and female sample at age 16, and declines thereafter. In the Houston sample solvents ranked sixth in frequency, with 12 per cent of students reporting use. Peak use of solvents for Houston females was reported at age 16, which was identical for Monterrey females.

The sixth most used substance by the Monterrey sample was stimulants, with 4.7 per cent of students reporting use. Male use of stimulants increased with age, going from 4.4 per cent at age 16, to 25 per cent at age 18. In the Houston sample stimulants were the fourth most widely used substance, with 28 per cent of students reporting use.

The seventh ranked substance by the Monterrey sample was hallucinogens, with 3.5 per cent of students reporting use. Hallucinogens' use increased with age, from 2.9 per cent use by males at age 16, to a peak of 15 per cent use by males at age 18. Use of hallucinogens in the Houston sample reaches a peak for males at age 17 and at age 16 for females. The use of hallucinogens for the Houston sample has a more consistently increasing trend through successive age brackets than for the Monterrey sample.

The eighth most widely used substance by the Monterrey sample was barbiturates, with 1.7 per cent of students reporting use. The only age bracket to report use was 18 year old males. In the Houston sample, 25 per cent of students report use. The peak age for male use was 18 which is identical to peak male use in Monterrey.

The ninth and least used category of substances in both the Monterrey and Houston samples were those of opiates or cocaine. In the Monterrey sample, of 229 cases only two respondents claimed use of this category of substances. Neither of these respondents indicated their sex or age on the forms. The over-all use by Monterrey students, without regard to age or sex, was 0.9 per cent. In the Houston sample 14 per cent reported use of these substances.

The Monterrey survey data present evidence, though on a highly reduced scale in comparison to the Houston survey, that multi-drug use patterns are emerging.

Discussion

Alcohol and tobacco are shared cross-culturally as the most used substances by the Monterrey and Houston youth. Alcohol use is of the same magnitude in both cultures, but tobacco is used more frequently in Mexican youth culture. This may be attributable to cigarettes being less expensive in Mexico than in the United States, and also due to lack of a minimum age requirement on purchase of cigarettes in Mexico, as there is in the United States. Use of marijuana is clearly widespread in both cultures and appears to be highly age related.

Monterrey males reported use of marijuana rising from 7.8 per cent in 15 year olds to 40 per cent in 18 year olds. When viewing these figures in the light of reported data that 23 per cent of the total sample knew ten or more males who use marijuana 37 at least one time per week, the potential unreliability of the 40 per cent peak male use figure, and the 12.9 per cent over-all use figure, becomes apparent. With extended sampling, it can be expected that use of marijuana by age brackets and over-all use will change.

In both cultures male use of the nine substances appears significantly greater than female, and this becomes especially true in the Monterrey sample. Use of stimulants, barbiturates, and hallucinogens is never reported by Monterrey females. Use of high-risk substances may be linked with a need to demonstrate "machismo" not felt by, or required of, Mexican females. Use of these three substances in the Houston sample is far more evenly distributed between males and females, with the need to demonstrate machismo being significantly absent in United States culture. The use of cough syrup is apparent among both the Houston and Monterrey females, surpassing male usage, at times, in both cultures. This is potentially attributable to greater reluctance on the part of females, against getting involved in the process of seeking out illicit chemicals, especially in Mexican society, and easy access to cough syrup, which is not an illicit item in either culture. This is a reasonably clear instance where the female "drug of choice" is, in reality, the drug of easiest availability.

Most disturbing on an individual and societal basis, for the culture, is the use of opiates or cocaine. Use of these substances by the Monterrey youth was less than one-fifth of that shown in the Houston survey; it should be understood that more representative sampling of Mexican young people might reveal a different figure in this category. Any incidence of use among a student population of this substance group can be understood to have a high risk/epidemic potential for non-users.

Correlates of drug use

One item on the questionnaire (item 55) asked students to classify themselves with regard to their use of drugs excluding alcohol and tobacco. There were five options (which will be reported with tabulated responses):

  1. I have used drugs and am still using them (Monterrey 3 per cent, Houston 10 per cent);

  2. I have used drugs and might use them again (Monterrey 5 per cent, Houston 9 per cent);

  3. I have used drugs and will not use them again (Monterrey 6 per cent, Houston 6 per cent);

  4. I have not used drugs but might try them (Monterrey 4 per cent, Houston 7 per cent);

  5. I have not used drugs and am not going to use them (Monterrey 82 per cent, Houston 68 per cent).

Results from item 55 corresponded closely with drug use as reported on the prevalence of use items in different categories of drugs. Chi-square tests between item 55 and 22 of the 27 drug use items were significant. The five questions which were not significant were due to the lack of adequate responses to complete the required contingency table. This confirms item 55 as appropriate for cross tabulation with other variables. In this way it is possible to study the differences between drug users and non-users in relation to their activities, beliefs, and attitudes. The results of these cross tabulations are grouped into those which are of general interest, those of special interest to educators, to parents, and to law enforcement personnel and public service agencies. The final section deals with student attitudes toward drug use, drug users, and social issues.

Age level is related to drug use for the Monterrey sample, as it was in the Houston sample. A Chi-square test between age and classification on item 55 for males was significant (χ 2 = 41.16; df = 12; P< .001). The same test could not be done for females because of blank cells in the contingency table. For Mexican males, maximum drug use is at age 18, but in the case of United States males this is true only for 5 out of 9 of the substances at age 18.

In the Monterrey sample males are far more likely to have used drugs and to plan to continue using them than females. (Eight per cent of the sample replied in this sense; of these 60 per cent were males and none females.) This is consistent with the Houston findings, where, 24 per cent of males and 15 per cent of females who had used drugs either might or will use drugs again.

Socioeconomic co-variates were highly significant in the Houston sample but the same trends were not evident in the Monterrey sample. In the Houston sample there was a significant relationship between the educational level of the mother and reported drug use (&;chi 2 = 31.3; df = 16; P< .02) and father's occupation and reported drug use (χ 2= 32.5; df = 16; P< .01). For the Monterrey sample no significant relationship could be established between parental occupational level and use of drugs. However, there was an inverse relationship between the mother's educational level and reported drug use in the Monterrey sample (χ 2= 26.9; df = 16; P< .05). The lack of any clear-cut or consistent relationship between socioeconomic level and drug use in the Monterrey sample is contrary to the findings in the Houston survey. Affluence has been implicated as one causal factor in the United States of youthful drug use. This is not yet evident in Mexico and is therefore worthy of more investigation.

Frequency of attendance at religious services was a significant co-variate in relation to drug use in both the Monterrey and Houston samples. In the former, 20 per cent of those who admitted past drug use do not attend church at all, as contrasted by 4 per cent claiming past use who attend church more than one time per week. In the Houston sample, 35 per cent of those who claim past drug use never attend church as opposed to 10 per cent of users who attend church more than once per week.

Of special interest to educators

Over-all grade average and future expectation of over-all grade average are inversely related to drug use in both the Monterrey and Houston samples. The higher the grade average the less likely the student is to be drug involved. In the Houston sample, 13 per cent of reported users who earned a grade average of "A" (the highest grade possible) last semester either plan or might continue drug use in contrast to none of the Monterrey reported users who, having earned an "A" average, plan to continue using drugs. Of those Houston students who earned "F" (a failing grade, the lowest possible) averages last semester, 60 per cent report drug use and plan to continue it, whereas only 17 per cent of Monterrey students who earned "F" averages last semester plan to continue using drugs. It is true for both cultures that the lower the student expects his grade average to be in the future the more likely he is to have used drugs and to plan to continue their use in the future. Since individuals who have low grade averages may have low self-esteem the data suggest that low self-esteem leads to increased drug use. This then may be a vicious circle in both cultures which must be broken in order to begin an abstinence cycle. Frequency of school absences is cross-culturally linked to drug use, with increased absences related to increased drug use.

Lack of life direction appears to figure significantly in the lives of both the Monterrey and Houston drug users. Of those who plan to get a job after high school, 24 per cent of the Houston sample report drug use and 9 per cent of the Monterrey sample report use; of those who plan to attend college, 16 per cent of the Houston group report drug use and 13 per cent of the Monterrey sample report drug use ; of those who plan to enter the armed forces, 26 per cent of the Houston sample and 14 per cent of the Monterrey sample report use. Of those without plans after school, 31 per cent of the Houston sample and 25 per cent of the Monterrey group report use. The cross-cultural similarity of responses on this critical question tends to confirm the hypothesis that drug abuse is symptomatic of lack of direction in the life of an individual. It is probable that adolescents in technologically sophisticated cultures experience heightened feelings of anxiety when thinking of the future and most of these search for ways of lessening this anxiety. One may reduce this uncertainty by having a plan or goal, but in the absence of such a plan or goal to fill a future void, drug use or abuse appears cross-culturally to become a maladaptive solution to this urgent need for orientational identity.

Students in both cultures saw the best means of drug education to be live panels of professionals and former users. The least effective programme in both cultures was thought to be books or readings on the issue.

The use of alcohol and tobacco by parents is significantly related to the use of drugs cross-culturally. In the Houston sample, use is highest (23 per cent) where fathers use both alcohol and tobacco. This is also true of the Monterrey sample (22 per cent) where fathers use both alcohol and tobacco. In the Houston sample only, the mothers' use of tobacco and alcohol is even more highly related to whether or not the children report use of drugs. Of the Houston students whose mothers use both alcohol and tobacco, 26 per cent reported that they have used drugs in the past and either would or might continue use in the future. Of the Monterrey students whose mothers use both alcohol and tobacco, only 15 per cent report past drug use and either plan to or might continue use in the future. This seems to indicate that for the United States adolescent, both mother and father serve as equally significant role models, but for the Mexican adolescent the father is a far more significant model for learning of behaviour than is the mother. Thus, parental education for the management of potential or actualized Mexican adolescent drug problems should not ignore the role of the mother, but should stress as much as possible the critical modelling function of the father. These results would also tend to validate the conception of Mexican middle class society as being patriarchical, and to identify United States society as far less (if at all) patriarchical.

Parental awareness of use of drugs was widely different in the Monterrey and Houston samples. Fifty per cent of the Houston sample reporting use of alcohol and tobacco indicate that their parents are not aware of their use of these substances, while only 19 per cent of the Monterrey sample indicated that their parents are not aware of their offsprings' use of alcohol and tobacco. Almost 75 per cent of the Houston students who report use of the other drugs indicate their parents do not know it, while only 31 per cent of Monterrey students indicate their parents are unaware of drug use in their adolescents. This may be partially due to the fact that Mexican mothers work with far less frequency than do United States mothers (15 per cent working Mexican mothers versus 65 per cent working United States mothers), and therefore the Mexican adolescent is under more extensive parental supervision than is the United States adolescent. This is especially true for Mexican female adolescents as opposed to United States female adolescents.

The amount of money available to spend per week is significantly related to reported drug use in both Mexican and United States youth cultures. Among Houston students who have more than ten dollars a week to spend, 34 per cent report drug use, and 33 per cent of the Monterrey students in this same category report drug use. Of the Houston students who have from 5 to 10 dollars per week to spend, 26 per cent report drug use as opposed to 13 per cent of the Monterrey students in this same category. In both cultures, students with 1 to 2 dollars spending money per week report lower drug use. This correlation between low drug use and small amounts of spending money, cross-culturally, may potentially be attributable to decreased ability to spend time in activities away from the home due to lack of money. As stated previously, when parental awareness of the activities is greater, drug use tends to be lower. Lack of money and greater time spent at home, therefore, would generally result in increased parental awareness of behaviour.

Of special interest to law enforcement and public service agencies

The original source of drugs for those who claim drug use, cross-culturally, is almost always a friend of the same age. For those who are presently using drugs, again almost always the source of supply is a friend of the same age. No Monterrey users claim obtaining drugs through an adult dealer. This finding should help to dispel the hypothesis of adult pushers preying on naive youths for their own profit. This cross-cultural data indicate that adolescent drug use is a peer group initiated and maintained activity.

A very significant difference between Monterrey and Houston drug involved students is revealed when they are asked where they would go for help with a drug problem. The Houston students ranked a friend as their first choice for help (41 per cent), second is a parent (26 per cent), third is a professional person (21 per cent), fourth is a religious advisor (9 per cent) and last a teacher (3 per cent). The Monterrey students ranked their first choice for help as parents (52 per cent), second a friend (18 per cent), third a professional (17 per cent), fourth a religious leader (7 per cent), and last a teacher (6 per cent). The fact that almost twice as many Monterrey students as Houston students would go to their parents with a drug problem indicates more trust of the parents by the Monterrey students. This may indicate that the lack of trust and amount of distance between Houston drug involved students and their parents is a prime factor in the differential level of severity between Houston and Monterrey adolescent drug use patterns. It is also significant that in all cases teachers were viewed as the least desirable group to approach with drug problems. In view of this acute lack of trust by drug-involved students, it is doubtful that drug education disseminated by teachers would be accepted with even a minimal degree of confidence by students in either culture.

Student attitudes toward drug use, users, and social issues

Four times in the survey the question was asked, "of the following, what do you think is the chief reason some students use drugs?" The response patterns were widely different between the Monterrey and Houston groups in general, but were highly similar between Monterrey users, experimenters, and non-users.

For users of the Houston survey, the chief reason was always oriented toward psychological or physical sensations such as, "for fun, kicks, or thrills" or "because it creates a good feeling". Monterrey users listed increased sensations part of the time, but also "to relieve or escape tension or worry" and "they want to feel at home with the group" were seen as influencing factors.

For Houston experimenters, peer pressures, increased sensation, and curiosity about effects of drugs were seen as primary motivating factors. For Monterrey experimenters, escape of pressure in school and home, increased sensations, and group pressure were seen as primary reasons.

For non-users of the Houston sample increased sensations were most often viewed as the primary reason for drug use, peer pressure ranking second. For Monterrey non-users, escape of pressures in school and home, curiosity about effects of drugs, and peer pressure were seen as the main reasons for drug use. There was major agreement between Monterrey users, experimenters, and non-users that escape of pressures at home and in school was a basic variable in a drug-involved student's life but this was rarely viewed as critical by any of the Houston groups.

Summary

Many of the co-variates of drug use found in Houston are evident in the data generated in Monterrey. The prevalence for most drug use is lower in Monterrey, however. Future comparative studies need to be conducted to find how patterns of behaviour follow and develop from culture to culture. If effective prevention and education programmes are developed they could be applied in areas where drug use has not yet become pandemic.

Bibliography

Barra, L.L. "Algunos Aspectos Psicosiales Del Alcoholismo". Revista Mexicana de Psicologia, 1966, 2, 751-757.

Cameron, D.C. "Youth and Drugs, A World View". Journal of the American Medical Society, 1968, 206, 1267-1271.

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