Teen Drug And Alcohol Use Lowest Among Blacks, Asians

Black and Asian adolescents are much less likely to turn to drugs or alcohol than teens of other races, according to a new study.

The survey of adolescents aged 12 to 17 years reveals that in total, 37 percent used alcohol or drugs in the past year, and 7.9 percent met criteria that would identify the teens as having a substance-related disorder.

When separated by race, Native American teens had the highest level of drug use, with nearly 48 percent reporting having used substances in the last year. That group is followed by 39 percent of white teens, almost 37 percent of Hispanics, 36 percent of multi-racial adolescents, 32 percent of blacks and nearly 24 percent of Asians.

"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 that the rate of ... substance-related disorders among African American youths is significantly lower," Dan Blazer from Duke's Department of Psychiatry, a senior author of the study, told the Raleigh News & Observer.

For the study, researchers analyzed survey results on use of alcohol and drugs like cocaine, heroin and oxycodone from 72,561 adolescents across the country. The study is published in the November issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Native American adolescents were also found to have the highest -- and blacks and Asians the lowest -- rate of substance-use disorder, defined as symptoms that would interfere with social functioning, work or school, and if obtaining the substance becomes a priority.

The researchers write in the report that the prevalence of substance use among Native American teens highlight a need for intervention in policymaking to ensure the youth can receive the support they need, and to address underfunded care services.

"The use of substances among adolescents in the U.S. is relatively high," Blazer told CNN. "The use and the frequency of substance related disorders is fairly high in this group."

Few teens used heroin, but of those who reported use, a quarter were using it abusively. Teens reported using marijuana more than any other drug, with 13 percent of those surveyed reporting marijuana use in the last year, followed by 7 percent reported having used prescription pain killers.

"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," the researchers write in their report. "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."

A separate report released in June supported previous research that early substance use affects the likelihood of abuse in adulthood. The study, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University showed that 90 percent of Americans who are current substance abusers started using drugs or alcohol before they turned 18.

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