Black, Asian teens less likely than whites to abuse drugs, study concludes


DURHAM, N.C. — Black and Asian adolescents are much
less likely than their white peers to abuse or become dependent on drugs
and alcohol, according to a Duke University-led study based on an
unusually large sample from all 50 states.

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,” said
Dr. Dan Blazer of Duke’s Department of Psychiatry, a senior author of
the study.

The findings, based on analysis of
confidential federal surveys of 72,561 adolescents ages 12 to 17 from
2005 through 2008, were released Monday and appear in the November issue
of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

9 percent of the white teenagers in the study sample used substances in
ways that indicated they had disorders, meaning abuse or dependency.
That’s nearly twice the percentage of blacks nearly three times the rate
for a group classified as Asian/Pacific Islander, which were mostly
Asians.. The prevalence of disorders was by far highest among Native
Americans, at 15 percent.

Abuse was defined as
substance use that caused at least one problem such as legal or
relationship issues. Dependence meant meeting several criteria from a
list that included inability to cut down, giving up other activities and
continued use despite problems.

Across all racial
and ethnic groups, 37 percent reported using drugs or alcohol in the
past year and nearly 8 percent met the criteria for a substance abuse

Among kids who abused illegal drugs,
marijuana was the most prevalent choice, followed by prescription
opioids such as oxycodone, which have passed inhalants such as glue as a
means of getting high.

Nearly 26 percent of the kids using marijuana had problems with abuse or dependency on the drug.

study should give researchers a starting point for further study into
topics such as the specific reasons that substance use and disorders are
less common in some groups than others, Blazer said.

widely known among substance-abuse counselors and psychiatrists who
work with Native Americans that problems vary greatly from one tribe to
another, Blazer said. A shortcoming of the data is that it couldn’t be
broken down into smaller subsets such as tribes, or to separate the
Asians and Pacific Islanders, to make it easier to dig deeper into the
questions raised by the study, he said.

addition to three Duke researchers, the study also involved a scientist
from the University of Pennsylvania and another from the Veterans Health
Administration in Washington.

studies, in some cases restricted to narrower slices of population or
geography, had previously indicated that black kids were less likely to
have drug problems than white adolescents, Blazer said. But the new
study uses a particularly broad and representative sample, with large
numbers surveyed in each racial and ethnic group.

the strength of the data, the findings should give policymakers firm
facts to use in making decisions about how to better tackle drug
problems among kids, Blazer said.

“It’s very hard
when you look at data like this to say we don’t have a problem,” he
said. “Then it becomes sort of an imperative to do something.”


%uFFFD2011 The News&Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Visit The News&Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services