Story by Crystal Chavez
Fronteras Desk

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A new study shows immigration at a young age for Latinos may increase the risk for alcohol and drug problems.

The study will be published in July in the online issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

It jumps off previous research that showed immigrants tend to have lower rates of alcohol and drug problems than people born in the U.S.

Jennifer Reingle, assistant professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health, said researchers wanted to see how age of immigration played into the risks for alcohol use and abuse in adulthood.

So researchers talked to Mexican-American adults who live near the U.S.-Mexico border and Mexican-Americans who live in large cities not close to the border, including L.A. and Miami.

"We found those who came before the age of 12 were much more likely to use drugs, they acted much more like U.S.-born adolescents when they were adults than people who are immigrants," she said.

Immigrants who came after early adolescence showed a lower risk of alcohol and drug problems later in life. Reingle said the loss of cultural values may play a big role.

“So what we’re thinking is that the earlier you come the more you start to act like someone who is U.S.-born because your personal identity isn’t solidified at all," she said.

There are more studies in the works about immigrants and their health, including a study on immigrants and smoking habits.