Trajectories of heroin use: A 15-year retrospective study of Mexican-American men who were affiliated with gangs during adolescence

Kathryn M. Nowotny, Jessica Frankeberger, Alice Cepeda, Avelardo Valdez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Heroin use is a public health concern in the United States. Despite the unique etiology and patterns of heroin use among U.S. Latinos, long-term heroin trajectories and health consequences among Latinos are not well understood. This study aims to document the distinct heroin use trajectories for a group of street-recruited (non-treatment), young adult Mexican American men living in a disadvantaged community who were affiliated with gangs during their youth. Methods: One-time interviews conducted between 2009–2012 in San Antonio, TX collected retrospective data from a sample of 212 Mexican American young adult men who reported using heroin at least once. Group-based trajectory modeling was applied to determine discrete developmental trajectories of heroin use. ANOVA, Chi square tests, and multinomial logistic regression examined current (past year) social and health indicators among each trajectory group. Results: Five discrete heroin trajectories groups were identified: low use (n = 65); late accelerating (n = 31); early decelerating (n = 26); late decelerating (n = 38); and stably high (n = 52). Varying social and health consequences were found among the trajectory groups. Conclusion: This study describes the unique heroin use trajectories and social and health outcomes among a high-risk subgroup of Mexican American men. The findings suggest that early intervention and intervention available in easy to access non-treatment spaces may be especially useful for groups of people who use relatively less heroin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107505
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Heroin
  • Latino men
  • Mexican Americans
  • Trajectories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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