Contrary to what people may believe, white youths are more likely to abuse drugs than African American youths, according to a Northwestern Medicine study published on March 17 in the American Journal of Public Health. In fact, non-Hispanic whites are 30 times more likely to abuse cocaine while African Americans are less likely than other ethnic groups to abuse drugs.

It has also found that Hispanic youths are 20 times more likely to use cocaine than African Americans. The study is the first one to investigate substance abuse and dependence through young adulthood among delinquent youth.

The 12-year-long study involved investigating 1,172 male and 657 female youths, ages 10 to 18 years, detained between 1995 and 1998 in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Centre in Chicago. The researchers followed up on the participants during their late 20s.

Non-Hispanic whites 30 times more likely to abuse cocaine than African Americans. Photo from Pixabay/stevepb

Non-Hispanic whites 30 times more likely to abuse cocaine than African Americans. Photo from Pixabay/stevepb

Apart from this, the researchers also found that 91.3 percent of males and 78.5 percent of females have experienced substance abuse during their late 20s. However, men were more likely to abuse marijuana and alcohol while women were more likely to abuse cocaine, opiate, sedatives and amphetamines.  The most popular substance among young adults is marijuana while alcohol becomes the most popular in their late 20s.

“Unfortunately, substance use disorders were the rule, not the exception,” adds lead author Leah Welty. “These young adults already face substantial challenges in completing education, establishing careers and building families. Substance abuse further compromises their futures.”

“Substance abuse is among the most serious health problems in the United States,” asserts Welty. “Rehabilitation and treatment services during incarceration and after would reach a sizeable proportion of people in need and would address health disparities in this highly vulnerable population.”

The researchers say that one in three male African Americans born in 2001 and one in six Hispanics born in the same year will be incarcerated at some point. On the other hand, only one in 17 Caucasians will be incarcerated.  So Linda Teplin suggests, “We must address — as a health disparity — the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans.”