Monday, November 14, 2011

Drug abuse less likely among black, Asian kids, study says

Talk about a story that debunks a myth, read on...

DURHAM, N.C. — Black and Asian adolescents are much less likely to abuse or become dependent on drugs and alcohol than white kids, according to a Duke University-led study based on an unusually large sample of kids from all 50 states.

"There is certainly still a myth out there that black kids are more likely to have problems with drugs than white kids, and this documents as clearly as any study we're aware of that the rate of ... substance-related disorders among African-American youths is significantly lower," said Dr. Dan Blazer of Duke's psychiatry department and a senior author of the study.

The findings, based on analysis of confidential federal surveys of 72,561 adolescents ages 12 to 17 from 2005 through 2008, appear in the November issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

About 9 percent of the white kids in the study sample used substances in ways that indicated they had a disorder, meaning abuse or dependency. That's nearly twice the percentage of black kids with such disorders and nearly three times the rate for a group classified as Asian/Pacific Islander, which mainly included Asian kids. The prevalence of disorders was by far highest among Native Americans, at 15 percent.

Abuse was defined as substance use that caused at least one problem such as legal or relationship issues. Dependence meant meeting several criteria from a list that included inability to cut down, giving up other activities and continued use despite problems.

Across all racial and ethnic groups, 37 percent reported using drugs or alcohol in the past year and nearly 8 percent met the criteria for a substance abuse disorder.

Among kids who abused illegal drugs, marijuana was the most prevalent choice, followed by prescription opioids such as oxycodone. These have surpassed inhalants such as glue as a means of getting high.

It's widely known among substance abuse counselors and psychiatrists who work with Native Americans that problems vary greatly from one tribe to another, Blazer said. A shortcoming of the data is that it couldn't be broken down into smaller subsets, such as tribes, to make it easier to dig deeper into the questions raised by the study, he said.

Earlier studies, in some cases restricted to narrower slices of population or geography, had previously indicated that black kids were less likely to have drug problems than white adolescents, Blazer said. But the new study uses a particularly broad and representative sample, with large numbers surveyed in each racial and ethnic group.

So, what explains the disparity of drug arrests and drug incarceration between blacks and whites of the same demographics, given this data because:
1. there are 10's of millions more whites than blacks in this country; and
2. whites have a much higher rate of illegal drug use than blacks.

I'm not a math wiz, but the numbers don't add up - our jails should be filled with young whites instead of young blacks.

What explains this inequality of justice?
Is it race or is it class?

From my experience, growing up in a predominately white suburb, I believe it's mostly about class and assess to power (which may have underlining racial connections).

When Johnny or Becky from the burbs are arrested for drug usage or distribution, they are introduced to rehabs and counselling; and once they complete a treatment program their arrests records are expunged. This is because Johnny's and Becky's parents can afford to hire high powered lawyers who could pull strings.

On the other hand, when Ray-Ray and Tanisha from the block are popped, they more frequently go straight into our juvenile (and sometime adult) criminal system. Their offense is deemed to be more of a crime vs being a sickness that needs treatment. Generally speaking, Ray-Ray's and Tanisha's parents have less resources and municipal contacts.

You do the math.

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