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Neighborhood-level LGBT hate crimes and current illicit drug use among sexual minority youth

Drug and Alcohol Dependence
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.11.001
  • Illicit Drug Use
  • Marijuana Use
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Lgbt Assault Hate Crimes
  • Social Determinants


Abstract Objective To investigate whether past-30 day illicit drug use among sexual minority youth was more common in neighborhoods with a greater prevalence of hate crimes targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT, or sexual minority) individuals. Methods We used a population-based survey of public school youth in Boston, Massachusetts, consisting of 1292 9th–12th grade students from the 2008 Boston Youth Survey Geospatial Dataset (sexual minority n=108). Data on LGBT hate crimes involving assaults or assaults and battery between 2005 and 2008 were obtained from the Boston Police Department and linked to youths’ residential address. Youth reported past-30 day use of marijuana and other illicit drugs. Wilcoxon–Mann–Whitney tests and corresponding p-values were computed to assess differences in substance use by neighborhood-level LGBT assault hate crime rate among sexual minority youth (n=103). Results The LGBT assault hate crime rate in the neighborhoods of sexual minority youth who reported current marijuana use was 23.7 per 100,000, compared to 12.9 per 100,000 for sexual minority youth who reported no marijuana use (p=0.04). No associations between LGBT assault hate crimes and marijuana use among heterosexual youth (p>0.05) or between sexual minority marijuana use and overall neighborhood-level violent and property crimes (p>0.05) were detected, providing evidence for result specificity. Conclusions We found a significantly greater prevalence of marijuana use among sexual minority youth in neighborhoods with a higher prevalence of LGBT assault hate crimes. These results suggest that neighborhood context (i.e., LGBT hate crimes) may contribute to sexual orientation disparities in marijuana use.

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