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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Mar 21;11(3):3443-52. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110303443.

Ecological factors and adolescent marijuana use: results of a prospective study in Santiago, Chile.

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School of Social Work, University of Michigan, 1080 S. University, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
Urban and Regional Planning, University of Michigan, 2000 Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
School of Social Work, University of Michigan, 1080 S. University, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
University of Michigan Substance Abuse Research Center, 1080 S. University, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
School of Social Work, University of Michigan, 1080 S. University, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
School of Social Work, Pontificial Catholic University of Chile, Avenida Vicuña Mackenna 4860, Santiago, Chile.
School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Pennsylvania, 46035 White Pines Dr., Novi, MI 48374, USA..



Despite the growing evidence that ecological factors contribute to substance use, the relationship of ecological factors and illicit drugs such as marijuana use is not well understood, particularly among adolescents in Latin America. Guided by social disorganization and social stress theories, we prospectively examined the association of disaggregated neighborhood characteristics with marijuana use among adolescents in Santiago, Chile, and tested if these relationships varied by sex.


Data for this study are from 725 community-dwelling adolescents participating in the Santiago Longitudinal Study, a study of substance using behaviors among urban adolescents in Santiago, Chile. Adolescents completed a two-hour interviewer administered questionnaire with questions about drug use and factors related to drug using behaviors.


As the neighborhood levels of drug availability at baseline increased, but not crime or noxious environment, adolescents had higher odds of occasions of marijuana use at follow up, approximately 2 years later (odds ratio [OR] = 1.39; 95% CI = 1.16-1.66), even after controlling for the study's covariates. No interactions by sex were significant.


The findings suggest that "poverty", "crime", and "drug problems" may not be synonyms and thus can be understood discretely. As Latin American countries re-examine their drug policies, especially those concerning decriminalizing marijuana use, the findings suggest that attempts to reduce adolescent marijuana use in disadvantaged neighborhoods may do best if efforts are concentrated on specific features of the "substance abuse environment".

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