Faculty & Staff

Professor nets national honor for research on drug use


Assistant sociology professor Alice Cepeda will be recognized by a national network for her research on drug use on the Latino community.

Cepeda will receive the National Award of Excellence in Research by a New Investigator at the National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse’s annual conference Sept. 30 in New Orleans.

Cepeda is currently studying the influence of social networks among aging Mexican-American heroin users.

“Some of the work that I’m currently doing is looking at such things as the social environment and social structural factors that puts a lot of these individuals at risk for engaging in illegal activities,” Cepeda said.

She mentioned factors such as poverty, violence and crime in the neighborhoods and the lack of employment opportunities in the community.

“The other thing is personal susceptibility factors, which are associated with issues of depression, childhood trauma and stress.”

Cepeda has also found that the family is occasionally a protective factor, with some families actually encouraging the user — who in this study are Mexican-American men, all 45 years or older, who have been using heroin for an extensive period of time — to engage in the drug use at home rather than in the community.

“Their families, in particular their mothers, have been very protective of them in the sense that the moms, who know that they’re engaging in this type of behavior, prefer that they’re in the house using the drugs rather than being out in the community being exposed to the possibility of being arrested and violent crime,” she said.

The study also includes a look at the lives of men who, 13 years ago, were adolescent and self-identified gang members.

Cepeda is working to locate the men and re-interview them to find out more about what their lives have been like for the past decade, including the events that may have contributed to their continued drug use or cessation.

Cepeda, who is also the associate director of the Center for Drug and Social Policy Research at the Graduate College of Social Work, also received the 2010 Junior Scholar Award from the Drinking and Drugs Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems earlier this year.


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