Substance Use and Addiction

In Washington State, substance use has been met with apprehension and curiosity with the passage of I-502, which allows for recreational marijuana use. Also newer is the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, which have been marketed to the younger crowd with the introduction of different flavors. A 2005 Monitoring the Future study indicated that Hispanic 8th graders had the highest rate of substance use among all teens. Substance use can lead to school dropout and other risky behavior. There is also evidence of changes to the brain for those who use illicit drugs at an early age. A 2014 study showed that those who do not attend college are more likely to abuse prescription drugs. Older Hispanics have lower rates of substance use issues than Whites. Greater acculturation is related to greater substance use. Generally, underutilization of treatment services is a concern due to the lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate treatment options.


  • Lack of access to care, which leads to late care and greater incidence of complications
  • There is a need to increase the number of bilingual/bicultural providers at all levels — MDs, nursing, nutrition, mental health; language barriers
  • Health care centers are not seeing the number of Latinos one would expect. How do we outreach to them?
  • How to train physicians re: care of substance user
  • With the passage of I-502, there is a need to educate parents and youth about the law and the serious consequences that can ensue if arrested: not able to get public housing, on permanent record, unable to get educational funding (financial aid)


  • Access to substance abuse treatment for Spanish-speaking patients is lacking
  • Lack of provider time when a patient finally opens up about their substance use issues
  • Relationship building to gain trust is rarely allowed in short-term studies
  • There are language barriers, cultural issues, and political issues in rural communities; provider agency having to draw line between care and politics
  • Lack of continuity of care for migrant families
  • Latinos don’t often go to the international clinic at HMC
  • Cost — how can one provide treatment and research?
  • Location of culturally and linguistically appropriate treatment and clinic services that are readily available


  • No info on whether there is research on Latinos and pain
  • Start a Latino care advisory group at UWMC
  • Comparative study on who is using each clinic
  • Understanding where the gaps are in transition of care for Latino substance users
  • Need for baseline data with 18–21 year olds regarding marijuana use in order to have an understanding of impact of I-502 and where the needs will be for treatment and research
  • Need for understanding what best practices are for treating Latinos
  • Understanding the impact of substance use on Latino children
  • Need for collaborative research efforts in the WWAMI region

substance abuse chart


Contact Information | Latino Center for Health | | | 206-616-9365