University of Houston associate professor of psychology Andres Viana has received a $900,000 Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to examine the impact of racial discrimination in moderate-to-heavy drinking adult Latinxs. Viana prefers the gender-neutral term Latinx.
Research shows that drinking patterns among Latinxs are different than those of non-Hispanic whites and other ethnic or racial groups. According to the NIAAA, understanding these differences can help prevention, intervention and treatment programs better serve the Hispanic community.
“Latinxs who drink tend to drink more on their drinking days than whites who drink,” said Viana. “There is also evidence that Latinx men experience the highest rates of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis of all racial and ethnic groups.”
Viana and his team will study a group of 150 self-admitted Latinx drinkers and will examine whether negative experiences, such as racial discrimination, increase their anxiety and drinking patterns.
“These sociocultural experiences have been overlooked in the treatment of ethnic minorities, particularly among Latinxs,” said Viana. If his work validates his theory, it can inform the work of therapists.
“When therapists are out in the community working with Latinxs who drink excessively, it may be important for them to consider experiences such as prejudice, racial discrimination, and lack of access to services, as potential reasons for their alcohol abuse.” The ultimate goal is to raise awareness of these factors increasing risk for addiction, he said.
The NIAAA grant supports career development of researchers with clinical doctoral degrees who have made a commitment to focus their research endeavors on patient-oriented research. Viana has previously conducted research on the development of anxiety disorders across the lifespan, including their association with substance use outcomes. This new grant will allow Viana to develop further expertise in the area of alcohol-anxiety comorbidity among Latinxs, a population afflicted by health disparities.
Viana’s mentors are senior investigators and include Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Professor of psychology Michael Zvolensky, Moores Professor of psychology Clayton Neighbors, Hugh Roy and Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Chair of psychology David Francis and David Wetter, the Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Presidential Professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Professor Ezemenari Obasi, associate dean for research in the UH College of Education is also a collaborator on the project.