Black and Asian Youth Have Lowest Rate of Drug Use

By Victoria Kim 07/09/15

African Americans continue to bear the brunt of the drug war despite lower rates of crime and abuse.

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According to the findings of the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, black and Asian American teenagers have the lowest rates of drug and alcohol use, as well as the lowest rates of substance-use disorder compared to their peers.

The study, which surveyed 72,561 adolescents aged 12 to 17 across the country, also said Native American youth reported the highest level of drug use, with 48% reporting drug use in the last year. White teens reported the second highest level of drug use with 39% reporting, followed by 37% of Hispanics, 36% of multi-racial teens, 32% of black teens, and 24% of Asian teens.

These findings fly in the face of public perception, Dan Blazer, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center told Raleigh News & Observer. “There is certainly still a myth out there that black kids are more likely to have problems with drugs than white kids, and this documents as clearly as any study we’re aware of [shows] that the rate of … substance-related disorders among African American youths is significantly lower.”

Black Americans bear the brunt of the drug war, also evidenced by prison populations. Black males are imprisoned at a rate six times greater than white males. Studies like the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that in reality, they are less likely to use drugs and are also less likely to sell drugs than other racial groups. But they are far more likely to get arrested.

The researchers behind the survey say their findings can help improve treatment by knowing who to target. “A lack of cultural competence is identified as a major gap, as insensitivity to cultural differences can limit the ability to treat and retain minority adolescents. Taken together, these findings call for efforts to identify and expand prevention measures that are culturally effective and address the quality and acceptability of treatment for adolescents with substance use problems,” they wrote.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr