Pathways to High-Risk Drug Abuse among Urban Youth:

This four-year study was designed to identify the critical factors responsible for the transition from “soft” or “gateway” drug use (monthly use of alcohol/marijuana/tobacco) to “hard” drug use (weekly heroin and/or cocaine), including injection drug use, among multiethnic inner city young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 in Hartford, CT. The study tested the hypothesis that social networks are more influential than personal vulnerability (social, familial and personal risk and protective factors) in promoting hard drug use and the transition to injecting. A key component explored the ethics of doing research with drug-using adolescents. With a baseline sample of 401 participants, results from the study showed a difference in network relationships based upon ethnicity, and the association of drug use with improved sexual performance or enjoyment, potentially increasing the risk for HIV/STD transmission. Research results were used to develop a culturally and contextually appropriate intervention strategy to reduce health, mental health and sexual health risks associated with party drug use and sexually transmitted diseases.

Project Supplement:

The supplemental study was completed in August 2001. Project staff observed urban and suburban young adults in two clubs and two after-hours settings in Hartford where young adults were using and distributing drugs. Individuals were interviewed to ascertain current drug distribution activities and their reasons for being involved in drug sales. The study examined individual’s perception of, and involvement in, opportunities for legitimate employment, and the economic relationship between legitimate businesses and drug selling. Study results reported income as a major factor that influences Latino youth’s entrance into drug selling: individuals involved in drug sales and not otherwise employed earn twice the amount of those not selling but legitimately employed. Often, formal economic infrastructures (e.g., small businesses, restaurants, stores) provide a safe location for individuals to sell drugs, as well as providing many of the technologies (beepers, cell phones) that are used by urban drug selling youth. The informal economy of drug selling provides an economic safety net for many Latino youth and their families in Hartford; trading stolen goods, using money made from selling drugs in local stores, and building businesses with income generated by drug selling relatives fuels the economy of urban avenues. Eliminating drug use and drug selling from these avenues would have a significant negative effect on neighborhood businesses and income.

Additional Information:

Jean J. Schensul, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Margaret R. Weeks, Ph.D.
Co-Principal Investigator

Raul Pino, M.D.,
Project Coordinator

Lorie Brumhall, Ph.D.,
Senior Ethnographer

Mariajose Romero, Ph.D.
Data Analyst

Mark Convey, B.A.,
Qualitative Data Research Assistant

Jeannie Ota, B.A.,
Data Entry

Bob Levine, M.D.,
Consultant, Yale University

Hispanic Health Council
Merrill Singer, Ph.D.,
Co-Principal Investigator

Scott Clair, Ph.D.,
Network Analyst

Edward Stanek, Ph.D.

Project Supplement Staff
Jose Garcia, B.A. Principal Investigator
Jean J. Schensul, Ph.D. Co-Principal Investigator

Please read the project abstract here.

Please read the project findings here.

Schensul, Jean J., Huebner, C., Singer, M., Snow, M., Pino, R., Broomhall, L. The High, the Money and the Fame: Smoking Bud among Urban youth. Medical Anthropology, Spring 2000.
Broomhall, L., Convey, M., Romero, M. In the cuff: Gender, drug use and drug selling among inner city African American and Puerto Rican female adolescents. Paper presented at the 2000 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, Illinois.
Huebner, C., Schensul, J. Romero, MJ, Singer, M. Los Jovenes de Hartford y el SIDA: Las Drogas en “la calle”, “la discoteca” y el alto riesgo del sexo. Paper presented at the International Conference on AIDS, Havana, Cuba, January 2000.
Pino, R., Schensul, J., Romero, MJ. Redes socials de alto riesgo en adolescents adictos en Hartford, CT. Paper presented at International Conference on AIDS, Havana, Cuba, January 2000.
Schensul, J., Heubner, C., Urban Youth and Club Drugs. Paper presented in an invited NIDA-sponsored panel entitled “Raves, Risks, Research: Update on Club Drugs, Washington, DC., December, 1999, in preparation for publication.
Broomhall, L., Convey, M., Pino, R. Hot tracks, fly gear and phat rides: the political economy of small-time drug dealing among inner city youth in Hartford. Paper presented at the 1999 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, Illinois (in preparation for publication).

Pino, R., Broomhall, L., Schensul, J., Romero, M., Convey, M. The roles of cousins in the social networks of drug-using youth in Hartford, CT. Paper presented at the 1999 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, Illinois in invited session on Social Networks in Place, Space and Time.
Huebner, C., Schensul, J. Constructing Social Networks for social and economic security in urban youth culture. Paper presented at the 1999 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, Illinois in invited session on Social Networks in Place, Space and Time organized by J. Schensul and C. Huebner.
Schensul, J., Clair, S., Pino, R., Levitt, M. Methodological issues in the conduct of network research with substance abusing youth. Invited Oral/Panel presentation at AIDS Science Day, Yale Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, April, 1999.
Broomhall, L., Schensul, J., Pino, R., Convey, M., Heubner, C. Network effects on Pathways to High-risk drug use among urban youth. Paper presented at annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Tucson, Arizona, spring, 1999 in invited session on Social Networks in Place, Space and Time.
Clair, Scott, Schensul, J., Pino, R., Levitt, M. Will you remember me in the morning: The dynamics of social networks examining risky behavior in urban adolescents and young adults. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and the Life Sciences, Berkeley, CA, Spring, 1999, in preparation for publication in Connections.

Project Supplement Publication
García, J., Schensul, J., Heubner, C., Burkholder, G. Segmenting the Market: Diffusing Drugs in Urban Networks

Please read the supplemental project abstract here.
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