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Race and Drug Use

Substance abuse affects all racial, cultural, and economic groups. Alcohol is the most commonly used substance, regardless of race or ethnicity, and there are far more persons who smoke cigarettes than persons who use illicit drugs. Usage rates for an array of substances reveal that for adolescents aged 12 to 17 years.

Drug Usage Rates by Race

  • Whites and Hispanics are more likely than African Americans to use alcohol.
  • Whites are more likely than African Americans and Hispanics to use tobacco.
  • Whites and Hispanics are more likely than African Americans to use illicit drugs.

Additional findings include the following:

Substance Use in the Past Year, 1998

Substance

White, Not
Hispanic

Hispanic

African American, Not Hispanic

All
Ages

Aged 12 to 17 Years

All
Ages

Aged 12 to 17 Years

All
Ages

Aged 12 to 17 Years

Percent

Alcohol

67.8

35.1

58.5

29.4

50.4

22.3

Cigarette

30.8

26.9

29.6

20.4

31.2

16.2

Any illicit drug

10.4

16.9

10.5

17.4

13.0

14.0

Marijuana

8.4

14.6

8.2

14.4

10.6

12.1

Cocaine

1.7

1.9

2.3

2.5

1.9

DSU

Inhalants

1.0

3.4

0.9

2.8

0.3

1.0

Heroin

0.1

DSU

0.1

DSU

0.2

DSU

DSU = Data are statistically unreliable.
Source: National Household Survey on Drug Abuse: Population Estimates 1998, SAMHSA.

Older adolescents and adults with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders need explicit and appropriate treatment for their disorders. Those who suffer from co-occurring disorders, however, frequently are turned away from treatment designed for one or the other problem but not for both. (See Focus Area 18. Mental Health and Mental Disorders.)

The population aged 65 years and older faces risks for alcohol-related problems, although this group consumes comparatively low amounts of alcoholic beverages. Adverse alcohol-drug interaction can put older people in the hospital, since many take multiple medications. In addition, many cases of memory deficits and dementia now are understood to result from alcoholism.

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