UTEP researchers are studying the drug-addiction problem on the El Paso-Juárez border that is often overshadowed by the extreme drug-cartel violence in Mexico.Drug users living on both sides of the border, the influence of juramentos, or religious promises, in fighting addiction and the growing use of methamphetamine in Juárez are among topics being researched at the University of Texas at El Paso.The research is part of the new Vulnerability Issues in Drug Abuse, or VIDA, project that in March was awarded a five-year $2 million grant by the National Institutes of Health to study drug addiction in the Hispanic community.VIDA was the topic of a seminar Friday on campus attended by professors, researchers, students and drug-abuse treatment specialists.”I think there are many factors in the El Paso-Juárez community that need to be studied and researched,” said Edward Casta ñeda, leader of the project and head of the UTEP Department of Psychology.”We live in a unique community,” Castañeda said. “You have factors here that you wouldn’t find in, say, Ames, Iowa. For example, movement back and forth across the border has an effect (on drug use), but we are trying to find out what that effect is.”El Paso-Juárez for generations has been a bustling location for drugs moving north, but researchers said drug addiction has also become a problem.Juárez has the second-highest rate of drug consumption of any city in Mexico after Tijuana, researcher Oralia Loza said during a presentation about a study of meth use on the border.Studies suggest that meth use has started taking root in Juárez in recent years, said Loza, an assistant professor of public health sciences.Another VIDA project is looking at the impact of juramentos in helping addicts stay sober as the practice spreads from Mexico into Hispanic communities in the United States. A juramento is a pledge usually made to the Virgin of Guadalupe in the presence of a Roman Catholic priest.”This is a grass-roots mechanism of dealing with addiction,” said researcher Mary Cuadrado, an associate professor of criminal justice at UTEP.The National Survey of Drug Use and Health reported that nearly 23 million people were users of illegal drugs last year in the United States. The figure remained statistically the same as in 2009.
The survey also found that illegal drug use has grown among Hispanic teenage boys while mostly remaining steady for other teens. The percentage of Hispanic boys who used illegal drugs was 13.2 percent last year, compared with 9.2 percent in 2008.The research project is needed in the community, said Chilo Madrid, CEO of Aliviane Inc., which runs drug-treatment centers in El Paso. “We need to bridge research with actual practice, and I think this program will do that,” Madrid said at the seminar. Aliviane had 50,000 patients last year.Daniel Borunda may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6102.
Mary Cuadrado, associate professor of criminal justice gave a presentation on a “Juramentos” pilot project at a seminar on Hispanic drug abuse Friday at UTEP.