The Association between Potentially Traumatic Events and Cocaine, Cannabis, and Alcohol Use Differs by Race

Background: Although exposure to potentially traumatic events (PTEs) for Black and Latinx may be comparable or lower than their White counterparts, type of trauma experiences differ such as more interpersonal trauma and violence reported by Black people, who also experience higher rates of PTSD. In this retrospective study, we examined the association between use of particular substances and various PTEs and the race/ethnicity-group differences for this association. Methods: One-hundred seventy-nine participants recruited from an outpatient substance use disorder program from February 2018 to October 2020 completed measures on lifetime trauma history and current/past cocaine, cannabis, and alcohol misuse. Bayesian generalized linear modeling with horseshoe prior was used to predict substance misuse using 17 PTEs, then PTEs were ranked and examined by racial/ethnic group. Results: No PTEs were associated with substance misuse across all four r/e groups. Transportation accident, natural disaster, war exposure, and other stressful events were associated with substance misuse across two or three r/e groups. Notably, the three PTEs involving interpersonal violence in our study (weapon assault, physical assault, and sexual assault) were only associated with substance misuse (posterior probability ≥70%) for Latinx participants. Conclusion: The relational nature of interpersonal/violent traumas may make them particularly salient for Latinx people where interpersonal relationships are prioritized. These types of traumas may also be viewed as an extension of discrimination and exclusion, two longstanding, intractable issues for people of color in the US, making them even more damaging. Furthermore, lack of resources may limit options for coping, resulting in substance use problems.


Black; Interpersonal trauma; Latinx; ethnicity; race; substance misuse.

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