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Article Summary

The Extent of Minority Drug Use

According to the 2005 American Community Survey, the estimated the population of the United States was 288,378,137. The population breakdown was 74.7% white, 12.1% black/African American, 0.8% American Indian/Alaska Native, 4.3% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander, 6.0% some other race, 1.9% two or more races. An estimated 14.5% of the population was of Hispanic/Latino origin of any race.

The 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that the highest rate of current (past month) illicit drug use was among American Indian/Alaska Natives (12.8%), followed by persons reporting two or more races (12.2%), blacks/African Americans (9.7%), Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander (8.7%), whites (8.1%) and Hispanics (7.6%). The lowest rate of current illicit drug use was among Asians (3.1%).

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveys high school students on several risk factors including drug and alcohol use. The 2005 report showed that 23.0% of Hispanic, 20.4% of black, 20.3% of white, and 13.9% of "other" race high school students were current marijuana users.

Reported Drug Use by High School Students, by Race/Ethnicity, 2005

Drug Use White Black Hispanic Other

Lifetime marijuana

38.0%

40.7%

42.6%

30.6%

Current marijuana

20.3

20.4

23.0

13.9

Lifetime cocaine

7.7

2.3

12.2

7.7

Current cocaine

3.2

1.5

6.1

3.1

Lifetime inhalant

13.4

6.8

13.0

12.8

Lifetime heroin

2.2

1.5

3.6

2.4

Lifetime methamphetamine

6.5

1.7

8.8

6.4

Lifetime Ecstasy

5.8

3.9

9.6

8.0

Lifetime illegal steroid

4.2

2.4

3.9

5.6

Marijuana before age 13

7.7

9.1

12.5

8.2

According to 2005 findings from the Monitoring the Future study, current and lifetime use of illicit drugs was lower for black 8th, 10th, and 12th graders than white and Hispanic students. Among 12th graders, whites tended to have the highest rates of lifetime use for a number of drugs. Hispanics generally have rates of use for many drugs that tend to fall between whites and blacks. However, Hispanics have the highest rate of lifetime usage for crack, heroin, Rohypnol, and crystal methamphetamine ("ice"). White and Hispanic seniors tend to have similar usage levels of methamphetamine and steroid use.

According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than half of black State and Federal prisoners surveyed in 2004 indicated that they used drugs in the month before their offense.

Percent of Prisoners Reporting Drug Use, 1997 and 2004

  State Prisoners Federal Prisoners

1997

2004

1997

2004

White

55.2%

57.7%

49.4%

58.2%

Black

58.3

56.0

47.2

52.7

Hispanic

55.0

53.5

37.5

38.4

Other

52.7

52.9

38.5

48.4

According to additional data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately half of black prisoners in State prisons and more than 40% in Federal prisons surveyed in 2004 met drug dependence or abuse criteria.

Drug Dependence or Abuse Among State and Federal Prisoners, 2004

  State Federal

White

59.1%

59.2%

Black

50.1

43.8

Hispanic

51.0

33.6

Other

50.7

47.2

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