Trajectories of Aging Long-Term Mexican American Heroin Injectors: The "maturing Out" Paradox

Alice Cepeda, Kathryn M. Nowotny, Avelardo Valdez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the applicability of the "maturing out" theory to a sample of aging Mexican American men who are long-term heroin injectors. Method: Ethnographic data were collected as part of a cross-sectional study of aging Mexican American heroin users in Houston with 20 current heroin users. Results: Findings indicate that dysfunctions that emerge in the heroin lifestyle lead not to cessation but rather to "maturing in," a specific process of social readjustment that returns the heroin user to a stable maintenance pattern of use instead of a recovery phase. This process of paradoxical maturing out can be attributed to the unconditional social support provided to the heroin user by family, peers, and the tecato subculture embedded in Mexican American communities. Discussion: Results highlight the implications for the intersection of heroin-related conditions, natural age-related impairments, and cognitive functioning that make this population increasingly susceptible to adverse health consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-39
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Aging and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Hispanic health
  • drug careers
  • epidemiology
  • health behaviors
  • heroin use
  • neighborhoods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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