Teen Drug Survey: Who Abuses Most?

By: CBS News
By: CBS News

(CBS) Which teens are most likely to turn to illicit drugs? A new study found widespread drug abuse among whites, Native Americans, Hispanics, and mixed-raced teens.

“I think it will be surprising to some people what the numbers show," study author Dr. Dan Blazer, professor of psychiatry at Duke University, said in a written statement. "It's important to recognize that among teens using these substances, there's between a 10 percent and 26 percent chance of having a substance use disorder."

To find out which teens were taking drugs for the study - published in the Nov. 7 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry - researchers analyzed confidential survey results from almost 73,000 teens between 12 and 17. Overall, 37 percent said they had used drugs or alcohol in the past year, with 8 percent fitting the criteria for a substance use disorder. People who have a substance abuse disorder use drugs to the point where it interferes with other activities, causing legal problems and/or damaged relationships, the researchers said.

What did they find?

Thirty-seven percent of Native American teens said they used alcohol, along with 35 percent of Whites, 32 percent of Hispanics. That compares with 25 percent of African-American teens, and 19 percent of Asian teens.

Drug use patterns were similar, with 31 percent of Native American teens using an illicit substance, along with 23 percent of children of multiple ethnicities, and 20 percent of White teens. African-American and Hispanic youths were least likely to use drugs, with 18 percent and 12 percent saying they took drugs, respectively.

Some findings troubled the researchers. Heroin was only used by a small portion of teens, but 26 percent of teen users had abuse problems with the drug. The drug used by most teens was marijuana, and 26 percent of pot-smokers had substance abuse problems.

"This is a road map," Blazer said. "If you really want to reverse the abuse and dependence on these drugs, what you need to do is start early, and focus on trying to get these young people into treatment, or catch them earlier and stop them from even starting."

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