Drug Use Among Latino Youth: Two Popular Criminological Perspectives Infused with Latino Culture


  • Albert M. Kopak

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Western Carolina University
    • Correspondence address: Albert M. Kopak, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Belk 413-A, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 28723, USA. E-mail: amkopak@wcu.edu

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Drug use among Latino youth in the United States is a persistent problem which has been examined from a variety of academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, and social work. These share significant overlap with mainstream criminological approaches to explaining delinquency and drug use, which have virtually ignored these issues or investigated them exclusively from an ethnocentric perspective. The naturally multidisciplinary topics of Latino youth, culture, and drug use can be readily situated within two popular frameworks (social control and strain), and these can also be enriched with core aspects of Latino culture. Complimentary cultural values enhance these two perspectives and significantly contribute to our criminological understanding of some of the reasons why Latino youth become involved in drug use. After reviewing our current knowledge on this subject, suggestions are made for ways future criminological research can more deeply explore these rich cultural reasons related to why some Latino youth use drugs. This can ultimately help inform more relevant drug use reduction strategies and also decrease the proportion of Latino youth who come into contact with the criminal justice system for drug-related offenses.