Substance use disorders among immigrants in the United States: A research update

Christopher P. Salas-Wright, Michael G. Vaughn, Trenette T. Clark Goings, David Córdova, Seth J. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction There is a critical need for the most current information available on the prevalence of substance use disorders (SUD) among immigrants vis-à-vis that of individuals born in the United States (US). We report the prevalence of SUDs among immigrants from major world regions and top immigrant-sending countries, and assess key moderators (i.e., age, gender, family income, age of migration, time in US) of the relationship between immigrant status and SUD risk. Method The data source used for the present study is the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC-III, 2012–2013), a nationally representative survey of 36,309 civilian, non-institutionalized adults ages 18 and older in the US. Logistic regression was employed to examine the relationship between immigrant status and SUD risk. Results Immigrants were found to be substantially less likely than US-born individuals to be diagnosed with a past-year or lifetime SUD, including alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, and opioid use disorders. These findings held across major world region and among immigrants from the top-ten immigrant sending nations, and across differences in age, gender, family income, age of migration, and time spent in the US. Conclusions Results from the present study provide up-to-date and cogent evidence that immigrants use alcohol and drugs, and meet criteria for SUDs, at far lower rates than do US-born individuals. Moreover, we provide new evidence that the protective effect of nativity holds for immigrants from an array of global regions and sending countries, and across key demographic and migration-related differences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-173
Number of pages5
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by grant number R25 DA030310 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health and by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences , National Institutes of Health , through BU-CTSI Grant Number 1KL2TR001411 . Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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