Variance in Substance Use between Rural Black and White Mississippi High School Students

Article excerpt

Alcohol and other drug use usually begins between the ages of 12 and 20 (DuPont, 1991). Patterns of use, which are established in youth, often persist into adulthood and contribute substantially to chronic disease (e.g., lung cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive lung disease), motor-vehicle accidents, low educational achievement, unemployment, AIDS, and other serious consequences (Centers for Disease Control, 1991; Hawkins, Catalono, & Miller, 1992). National health objectives have been set to substantially reduce the use of alcohol and other drugs among both youth and adults in order to curb these consequences (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, 1991).

The purpose of the present study was to determine the extent to which the use of substances varies between black and white students in a sample of primarily rural Mississippi adolescents.



The subjects for this study were 1,915 adolescents from seven high schools in Mississippi. These schools represent a mix of students: low, middle, and upper socioeconomic status; black and white students; and public and private schools in a primarily rural Mississippi school district. Male students comprised 48.8% of the sample and females 51.2%. Freshmen accounted for 15.2%, sophomores 36.9%, juniors 29.5%, and seniors 18.4%. About three-fourths (73.1%) of the subjects were white and one-fourth (24.9%) were black. Two percent of sample members identified themselves as either Native American, Hispanic, Asian, or other.


Data were collected via a drug frequency questionnaire in regularly scheduled classes. Students were informed that their participation was voluntary and were instructed not to place their name upon the questionnaire. They were asked to indicate whether they drink alcohol during the average month; get drunk during an average month; smoke cigarettes during an average day; use smokeless tobacco during an average day; and used cocaine, marijuana, hallucinogens, amphetamines, or sedatives during the past month. The proportion of black males and females and white males and females using various substances are shown in Table 1. Chi-square tests were calculated to determine differences in substance use categories between black and white males as well as for black and white females. These are noted in the table.

Table 1. Proportion of Students Using Various Substances

                              BLACK    WHITE      BLACK     WHITE
                              MALES    MALES     FEMALES   FEMALES

Drink alcohol during the      50.0     58.5(a)    23.5      54.7(b)
average month

Get drunk during the          33.2     46.4(a)     9.7      32.7(b)
average month

Daily cigarette smoker        13.3     21.3(a)     1.3      20.7(b)

Used cocaine in the past       6.4      7.7        1.3       1.2

Used marijuana in the past    10.8     15.6        2.1       6.4(b)

Daily user of smokeless        7.0     25.3(a)     0.0       0.3

Used hallucinogens in the      4.4      9.6(a)     0.8       2.0
past month

Used amphetamines in the       3.4      6 .7       0.8       2.6
past month

Used sedatives in the past     3.0      6.7(a)     0.8       2.6

a Black males differed significantly (p [is less than] .05) from white males

b Black females differed significantly (p [is less than] .05) from white


Black males were significantly less likely than white males to drink alcohol, get drunk, smoke cigarettes, use smokeless tobacco, hallucinogens, and sedatives. They also reported using cocaine and amphetamines less than did white males although these differences were not statistically significant. Black females were significantly less likely than white females to drink alcohol, get drunk, smoke cigarettes, and use marijuana. Black females were also less likely to use smokeless tobacco, hallucinogens, amphetamines, and sedatives than were white females; however, these differences were not

statistically significant. …