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November 7th, 2011
05:37 PM ET

Teen drug use highest among Native Americans; Asians lowest

White, Hispanic, Native American and mixed-race teenagers have higher rates of substance use and abuse than African American and Asian teens according to a new study in the Archives of General Psychiatry. They also are affected more by substance-related disorders.

"This study is an alert. We would like for people to be aware of the issue and the problem and be ready, hopefully. and willing to look at ways in which we can try to turn this around," said study author Dr. Dan Blazer,  of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center. "These data should suggest to any policy-making individual that we have a real problem and that problem doesn't manifest itself equally across all groups."

Nearly 73,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 were asked about their use of alcohol and nine  types of drugs–marijuana or hashish, cocaine or crack, hallucinogens, heroin, prescription opioids or pain killers like oxycodone or morphine, stimulants or amphetamines, sedatives and tranquilizers. 37%  percent admitted to drug or alcohol use in the past year, according to the study.

One in 12 teens reported having a substance-related disorder as part of the study. "The use of substances among adolescents in the U.S. is relatively high," Blazer said. "The use and the frequency of substance related disorders is fairly high in this group."

Native American youths have the highest rate of use and related disorders, African Americans and Asians the lowest.

Blazer defines the disorders as a group of symptoms that indicate a problem with a substance including interfering with school work, social functioning or a job; seeking/getting the substance increasingly takes more time and effort, becoming a main goal; the more they use these drugs, the more they need them and that so much is being taken that the teen is endangering themselves (like binge drinking and driving).

The study found marijuana was used more frequently than alcohol and the other drugs and that prescription pain killers replaced inhalants as the second most used drug of choice. Blazer called it a major public health issue.

"Use is high and the potential for having a disorder if you are using is high.  Teachers, doctors, parents and peers need to be on the lookout that this is a real problem in adolescence. Substance use disorders are difficult to treat especially if they have been using them for years."

Blazer says they don't have a clear idea why some groups have higher rates, but he says the racial, ethnic differences suggest interventions need to be culturally sensitive.


soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Oscar "The Pothead" Chavez

    Am i the only teen that does drugz n reads the Newz everyday...really ??...all i have to say is ive been smoking weed for 3 yearz n i say screw it..itz the end of timez n im only 17 not gona live to have kids or a wife so i say screw the world !!!...our government is messed up ninstead of helping us i owe money to them..n i dont have a job cuz they dont care about us...anywayz R.I.P. TUPAC SHAKUR AND MICHAEL JACKSON !!

    November 7, 2011 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James

      Reading the news hasn't done too much for your english, has it Oscar?
      You make responsible drug users such as myself look bad.
      Shame on you.

      November 9, 2011 at 11:14 | Report abuse |
  2. reficul

    Because your young we can forget everything you just said, but like all things in life there's a silver lining in your quite misinformed rant. WE are in the end of times. Nothings stopping you from commanding a leading role. If that don't work try smoking some DMT n listening to some allman broes

    November 7, 2011 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Dizzyd

    I wonder if part of it has to do with them being forced onto the prisons they call 'reservations'.

    November 7, 2011 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Thinker

      No one is forced to be on the rez anymore.

      November 7, 2011 at 23:15 | Report abuse |
    • Excuse me ma'am

      Nobody is forced to be on the Rez anymore, true, but some have no choice. My uncles are very poor and can't afford to leave the res because they have a home there, the schools are beyond terrible, every one is dirt poor and there is very little effort in reaching out to these kids. The responsibilities land on the schools, parents, and elders of the tribes and community to educate and take care of growing natives as well as provide decent role models in their lives.

      As a native woman who grew up away from the reservation, sometimes Im ashamed of how ignorant my own family seems on this matter. Its almost as if they refuse to acknowledge its actually a problem.

      November 8, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse |
  4. Waiting to exhale without being arrested

    There needs to be a study of 12-17 year olds that lie to make themselves feel important.
    Children can be told what to say by leading the questions.
    The tests given where designed to give credit to answers already made up.
    I want tacos.

    November 8, 2011 at 05:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Marjie arnold

    Kids who have hope 4 a future dont do drugs this is a symptom of how sick our society has become

    November 8, 2011 at 06:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. neal kelley

    Where are all the Internet Nazis now....? Where are all the race baiting comments....?

    November 8, 2011 at 08:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Portland tony

    All of you researchers can cite statistics and do endless amounts of field work perhaps as part of PHD studies. Would it be to much to ask, now that you have identified the problem, Go ahead and Solve it or at least try to. Where would we be as a civilization if. We stated "Yep, we have a problem" and left it at that? _

    November 8, 2011 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ronald McDonald

    drugs r good mmmmk.

    November 8, 2011 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D Lykos-Wolvenstien

      yes they r

      December 21, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse |
  9. Brandt Hardin

    Prescription Drugs have robbed far too many people of their dignity and lives. Big Pharma is the REAL drug cartel in North America. Their overmedicating of the American public through obscene advertising leads to nearly 100,000 deaths per year! Prescription drugs are more dangerous than any felony drug substance in the world including heroin, cocaine and even alcohol combined. Read about this issue and what’s killing people at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/07/illustration-friday-800-milligrams.html

    November 8, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Leah

    Asians are the lowest because they are mostly the dealers. They look at selling drugs as a business venture with very high return. You would not believe how many Asians are selling drugs in Vancouver and driving Ferrari's.

    November 8, 2011 at 18:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Gary Bellasalmo

    I have seen drug use both here and in Philippines and the mentality of the users are different in both countries as well as reasons for use.

    November 9, 2011 at 01:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. UrbanIsntGhetto

    African American teens don't use hard drugs because they know the effects 1st hand of hard drugs. African Americans may laugh and joke about crack cocaine but it devastated the African American community. Every African American family in the US was affected from Whitney Houston to Smokey Robinson to the man on the corner. What's interesting is that while they do not use hard drugs, they are the ones who are imprisoned at higher rates for the sale of the product. That is something that should be examined.

    November 9, 2011 at 03:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. airlea

    I am so offended after reading this article, I am a young Native American woman who grew up on and has lived on the rez almost my whole life, I moved off of the rez a couple of years ago. Although we are no longer forced to live on reservations the damage is already done, it is in human nature to stay in enviroments we are comfortable in. Even though living on the rez has many problems, it is also a great sense of community. A lot of people I know don't leave because they have concerns about their families, it's a great feeling to know that there will always be somebody there for you.
    Drug use is a major problem, but there is not nearly as many natives in america as blacks, whites and asians so I think that the statistics are particularly high because we have less people to test. I still live in a city where a large part of the population is Native and we as a people are faced with racism every day, maybe even more so then blacks or hispanics. We are judged and frowned upon day after day and that may be another contributing factor to our drug use and hesitance to leave the rez.
    If you are native but do not live on the rez or a predominantly native community, and never have, then you should just sit down and shut up. Although you may have problems of your own, you will never understand the challenges we face. That comment goes for any other commentors who also want to be judgemental

    November 9, 2011 at 07:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. fdhfgh

    Asians don't even need drugs to be freaking mentally amazing!!

    November 14, 2011 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. fdhfgh

    They have very strict rules on drugs or something... guess they know what theyre doing... seems to be working well for them... they are already super intelligent people... who knows

    November 14, 2011 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply

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