People and places: Relocating to neighborhoods with better economic and social conditions is associated with less risky drug/alcohol network characteristics among African American adults in Atlanta, GA.
INTRODUCTION Several cross-sectional studies have examined relationships between neighborhood characteristics and substance misuse. Using data from a sample of African-American adults relocating from U.S. public housing complexes, we examined relationships between changes in exposure to local socioeconomic conditions and substance misuse over time. We tested the hypothesis that adults who experienced greater post-relocation improvements in local economic conditions and social disorder would have a lower probability of recent substance misuse. METHODS Data were drawn from administrative sources to describe the census tracts where participants lived before and after relocating. Data on individual-level characteristics, including binge drinking, illicit drug use, and substance dependence, were gathered via survey before and after the relocations. Multilevel models were used to test hypotheses. RESULTS Participants (N=172) experienced improvements in tract-level economic conditions and, to a lesser degree, in social disorder after moving. A one standard-deviation improvement in tract-level economic conditions was associated with a decrease in recent binge drinking from 34% to 20% (p=0.04) and with a decline in using illicit drugs weekly or more from 37% to 16% (p=0.02). A reduction in tract-level alcohol outlet density of >3.0 outlets per square mile predicted a reduction in binge drinking from 32% to 18% at p=0.05 significance level. DISCUSSION We observed relationships between improvements in tract-level conditions and declines in substance misuse, providing further support for the importance of the local environment in shaping substance misuse. These findings have important implications for public housing policies and future research.