Exploring child maltreatment and its relationship to alcohol and cannabis use in selected Latin American and Caribbean countries
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OBJECTIVES: Research from developed countries shows that child maltreatment increases the risk for substance use and problems. However, little evidence on this relationship is available from developing countries, and recognition of this relationship may have important implications for substance demand reduction strategies, including efforts to prevent and treat substance use and related problems. Latin America and the Caribbean is a rich and diverse region of the world with a large range of social and cultural influences. A working group constituted by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in June, 2010 identified research on this relationship as a priority area for a multinational research partnership. METHODS: This paper examines the association between self-reported child maltreatment and use in the past 12 months of alcohol and cannabis in 2294 university students in seven participating universities in six participating countries: Colombia, El Salvador, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama and Uruguay. The research also considers the possible impact of religiosity and minimal psychological distress as factors contributing to resiliency in these samples. RESULTS: The results showed that experience of maltreatment was associated with increased use of alcohol and cannabis. However, the effects differed depending on the type of maltreatment experienced. Higher levels of religiosity were consistently associated with lower levels of alcohol and cannabis use, but we found no evidence of an impact of minimal psychological distress on these measures. CONCLUSIONS: This preliminary study shows that the experience of maltreatment may increase the risk of alcohol and cannabis use among university students in Latin American and Caribbean countries, but that higher levels of religiosity may reduce that risk. More work to determine the nature and significance of these relationships is needed.
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