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Stereotypes about Addiction in “High-Risk Urban Settings” Unfounded, Study Shows

A study recently published in Frontiers in Public Health found that African American/Black and Latino adults living in “high-risk urban settings” are actually not especially at risk for developing substance use problems compared to the general US population (Cleland, Lanza, Vasilenko, & Gwadz, 2017). 


Conducted by a team at the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research at New York University’s College of Nursing, the study examined “nearly three thousand Black/Latino adults living in a community with high rates of poverty” (Kim, 2017). Prior to the results of this study, some may have assumed that “living in this type of environment presents certain risk factors, defined as homelessness, incarceration, extreme poverty, and depression . . . typically associated with higher rates of substance use problems,” according to addiction news website The Fix (Kim, 2017). 


However, researcher Dr. Marya Gwadz stated, “We found a substantial proportion of participants had relatively low rates of risk factors, overcoming obstacles and thriving, even in difficult situations beyond their control, such as high local unemployment rates” (Kim, 2017). Participants also showed significant resilience due to factors like employment, childcare and transportation support, and education.


“We believe our study challenges some of the preconceptions people may hold about African American/Black and Latino adults living in high-risk urban communitiesm,” Dr. Gwadz concluded (Kim, 2017).    




Cleland, C. M., Lanza, S. T., Vasilenko, S. A., & Gwadz, M. (2017). Syndemic risk classes and substance use problems among adults in high-risk urban areas: A latent class analysis. Frontiers in Public Health. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2017.00237/full


Kim, V. (2017). Drug study challenges stereotypes placed on ‘at-risk’ Black and Latino Americans. Retrieved from https://www.thefix.com/drug-study-challenges-stereotypes-placed-risk-black-latino-americans