Substance Abuse in Minorities

By Sharma, Manoj; Kanekar, Amar | Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Substance Abuse in Minorities


Sharma, Manoj, Kanekar, Amar, Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education


According to the Healthy People 2010 Report, substance abuse in the form of alcohol and illicit drug use is associated with most of the country's serious problems such as injury, violence and HIV infection. The annual economic costs to the United States from drug abuse were estimated to be $110 billion and alcohol abuse were $167 billion in the year 1995 (United States Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 2000).

The largest minority population in the United States according to the 2000 U.S. Census is the Latino population which constitutes 12% of the US population. Data for lifetime substance use rate of Latinos is between the higher rates of European Americans and the lower rates of African Americans while the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse showed, among persons 12 years and older in 2001, the rates for illicit drug and alcohol dependence were 7.8% among Latinos, 7.5% among whites, and 6.2% among African-Americans (Beauvais, & Oetting, 2002). The other fast growing minority population is the Asian-American (Bernstein, & Bergman, 2003), which is largely treated as a single ethnic group and researchers fail to draw distinctions among various Asian American subgroups (Griffin, Mosher, Rotolo, & Drapela, 2004). Substance use in the form of alcohol and other drugs is also large among the African-American population and intragroup variation or the underlying dynamics are largely understudied by the researchers. This may stem from poverty, unemployment, crowded living conditions and single-parent families (Turner, 2000). If adequate prevention efforts need to be established and disseminated, there is a need of studying the epidemiology and correlates of substance use in this population. This aspect seems to be lacking as there is a general paucity of culturally competent researchers along with an assumption of homogeneity of this population (Turner, & Wallace, 2003). Hence we see that substance abuse continues to be a problem among the various minority populations.

Substance abuse correlates such as race and sex differences ambiguously provide some evidence about the patterns of drug abuse differing by group (Barnes, & Welte, 1986; Newcomb, & Bentler, 1987; Wells et al., 1992). Some of the risk factors such as social integration, self-esteem and self-efficacy were found to have low predictive validity in black female adolescents (Gottfredson, & Koper, 1996). For African-American males as well as females, family association as a protective factor appears to reduce risk taking behavior and lack of it has an opposite effect (Calvert, 1997). Similarly, lack of economic opportunities and high incarceration rates are impactful in causing substance dependence in racial and ethnic minorities (Amaro, Raj, Vega, Mangione, & Perez, 2001).

Among various models that attempt to understand substance abuse tendencies among youths and adolescents, an ecological systems perspective looks at a triadic interaction among child, parents and the social environment and has protective and risk factors integrated in it (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). A structural equation model based on this social ecological model evaluated the substance abuse pathways in minority adolescents. This model lent support to the influence of family protective factors and found family involvement as a significant predictor of self-control skills, social skills and social support predicting school-connectedness which in turn determined substance dependence (Wang, Matthew, Bellamy, & Syretta, 2005). Although this is true for most of the minorities, it is to be seen whether these and some other factors such as problem-solving ability and positive self-esteem serve as protective barriers in communities such as Latinos (De La Rosa, Holleran, Douglas, & Macmaster, 2005). A study done among middle school African-American students found that non-users of alcohol and cigarettes had better decision-making skills, higher self-efficacy, lower peer pressure susceptibility and more positive attitudes about school than did early users at beginning and end of 6th grade (Clinton-Sherrod, Sobeck, Abbey, Agius, & Terry, 2005).

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