Study of the Day: Substance Abuse Among Teenagers Varies by Race

More

More than a third of teens used alcohol and drugs in the past year, and whites and Hispanics were some of the most likely to abuse them

main stefanolunardi shutterstock_74253595.jpg

PROBLEM: Though young racial groups are the fastest growing populations in the United States, data about substance-related disorders among adolescents of various ethnic backgrounds are lacking.

METHODOLOGY: Investigators led by Duke University psychiatrist Dan G. Blazer analyzed data collected between 2005 and 2008 from confidential national surveys of 72,561 adolescents aged 12 to 17. They examined the magnitude of past-year substance-related disorders, including abuse of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and opioids among white, Hispanic, African-American, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, and multiple race/ethnicity adolescents. They controlled for socioeconomic variables in their analysis.

RESULTS: Among the respondents, 37 percent said they had used alcohol or drugs in the past year while 7.9 percent met the criteria for a substance-use disorder -- that is, their use had escalated, interfered with other activities, caused legal problems, and/or damaged relationships. Among the 27,705 past-year alcohol or drug users, Native Americans (31.5 percent), adolescents of multiple race/ethnicity (25.2 percent), adolescents of white race/ethnicity (25.2 percent), and Hispanics (21 percent) had the highest rates of substance-related disorders. Adolescents of African, Asian, and Pacific Islander descents abused alcohol and drugs the least. Among the substances involved in these disorders, marijuana was the most heavily used, followed by stimulants and then alcohol.

CONCLUSION: Teenage drug abuse is a widespread problem among whites, Native Americans, Hispanics, and youngsters of multiple races. Blazer says in a statement that, among teens using these substances, there's between a 10 and 26 percent chance of having a substance use disorder.

SOURCE: The full study, "Racial/Ethnic Variations in Substance-Related Disorders Among Adolescents in the United States," is published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

Image: stefanolunardi/Shutterstock.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In