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Less Likely to Use Drugs

By on November 9, 2011

African American teenagers are less likely to use drugs and alcohol than their white counterparts, this comes from the latest results  from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The findings are promising but not amazing given that 39% of white teens between the ages of 12 and 17 admitted to using substances in the past year, compared to just 32% of blacks and 24% of Asians. Topping the list of adolescent substance users are Native American youth, at 48 percent.

“What surprised us the most was the relatively lower rate of use among African Americans,” said Dan Blazer, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. “The public perception is that that’s not the case.”

The numbers paint a very different picture than what has often been portrayed in popular media, and could point to a need to redirect national funding in drug prevention programs. Currently, public health issues, social services, public safety and lost productivity linked to drug and alcohol abuse cost society approximately $465 billion a year, according to the study.

“There is certainly still a myth out there that black kids are more likely to have problems with drugs than white kids,” Blazer said  “and this documents as clearly as any study we’re aware of that the rate of…substance-related disorders among African American youths is significantly lower.”

Most interesting in the study is the shift in the kinds of drugs teens are using overall. Aside from marijuana, prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin now beat out inhalants as the drug of choice among the nation’s teens. And heroin, which was viewed as “no big deal” to suburban teens in a 2010 article in Psychology Today, was reported as the drug most closely associated with addiction. Marijuana, which is also highly addictive, was reportedly used by more than one in ten teens last year.

National Survey

Researchers used information from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2005 to 2008, the only survey designed to provide ongoing estimates of substance use in the U.S. The survey asks about use of alcohol and nine drug classes, including marijuana, inhalants, heroin and prescription painkillers. The study included youth ages 12 to 17.

If you are concerned that any child or adolescent may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, contact the National Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Center at 1-800-784-6776 for treatment support or referrals.


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