White, Hispanic, Native American, and mixed-race teens have higher rates of substance abuse than black and Asian teens, according to a new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Researchers asked about 73,000 youths between 12 and 17 about their alcohol and drug use (including prescription painkillers such as oxycodone). One in
12 reported having a substance-abuse disorder and almost half admitted to drug or alcohol use in the past year. Drug use was found to be most prevalent among white teens, followed by hispanics, mixed-race youths, blacks, and Asians.
"What surprised us the most was the relatively lower rate of use among African-Americans," said study author Dr. Dan Blazer of Duke University Medical Center. "The public perception is that that's not the case."
The study found marijuana was used most frequently, followed by prescription painkillers, researchers found. Other drugs the teens were surveyed about include cocaine or crack, hallucinogens, heroin, morphine, stimulants or amphetamines, sedatives, and tranquilizers.
"Use is high and the potential for having a disorder if you are using is high," said Dr. Blazer. "Teachers, doctors, parents peers need to be on the lookout that this is a real problem in adolescence. Substance abuse disorders are difficult to treat especially if they have been using them for years."
Why some groups of higher rates of drug use than others is unclear, but study results indicate that any interventions need to be sensitive to racial, ethnic differences, Dr. Blazer added.