Influence of “Traveling” Youth and Substance Use Behaviors in the Social Networks of Homeless Youth
Methods: 386 homeless youth at two drop-in centers in Los Angeles, CA, participated in a self-administered survey and a social network interview between October 2011 and February 2012. Past month binge drinking (5 or more drinks within 2 hours), marijuana use, hard drug use, multiple drug use (marijuana and at least one hard drug) and injection drug use were measured based on participants’ self-reports. Chi-square tests compared substance use behavior by traveler status and by networks with travelers. Multivariable logistic regressions indicated the correlates of risky behaviors for each substance.
Results: Homeless youth in this study were 16 to 29 years old, 71.0% males, 35.8% White, and 30.4% travelers. Travelers engaged in significantly more binge drinking (χ2=16.44, p<.001) marijuana (χ2=21.85, p<.001), hard drug (χ2=6.87, p<.01), multiple drug (χ2=9.40, p<.01), and injection drug (χ2=8.37, p<.01) use than non-travelers during the past month. Likewise, youth connected to travelers were more likely to use all substances than those who were not connected to travelers. Only connections to substance-using travelers, not ties with all travelers, were significantly associated with one’s binge drinking (OR=3.13, 95% CI=1.79, 5.47), marijuana (OR=2.70, 95% CI=1.40, 5.19), and injection drug use (OR=4.34, 95% CI=1.90, 9.93).
Discussion: Findings of this study highlight the need for harm-reduction based, substance use prevention services using network-level interventions that target travelers. One effective strategy is to focus particularly on substance-using travelers, as they are a potential source of negative influence to their peers. Thus, we propose training non-travelers who are not substance users to build a bridge to services to high-risk traveling youth. To prevent these low-risk non-travelers from using substances, we will need to consistently provide support and other services to them.
Learning Areas:Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences
Identify how travelers are connected to other travelers and non-travelers within a bounded network of homeless youth. Compare demographic and homelessness characteristics by current traveler status and by connections to travelers. Assess how one’s traveler status and connections to travelers are associated with substance use behaviors of traveling and non-traveling youth.
Keyword(s): Homelessness, Network Analysis
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the project manager on the R01 which collected this data and I assisted in all aspects of preparing this particular abstract, including conceptualization of the paper, data analysis, and paper writing. I have published on substance use and homeless populations in several peer-reviewed journals.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.