Northwestern Study Finds Racial Differences in Substance Abuse Among Delinquent Teenagers

northwesternA new study led by researchers at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University in Chicago studied the drug and alcohol use of teenagers who had been held in juvenile detention centers. The study followed these youths for 12 years.

The study followed 1,829 youths randomly sampled from detention facilities in Chicago, Illinois, starting in 1995 through 1998. The subjects were interviewed up to nine times through 2011. The study found that contrary to common societal stereotypes, African Americans were far less likely that Whites or Hispanics to develop substance abuse disorders relating cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and sedatives. In fact, non-Hispanic Whites had 30 times the odds of cocaine use disorder compared with African Americans.

Linda A. Teplin, the Owen L. Coon Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the senior author of the study, stated that “our findings add to the growing debate on how the war on drugs has affected African Americans. We found that African Americans are less likely than other racial/ethnic groups to abuse hard drugs. Yet, African Americans are disproportionately incarcerated for drug crimes.”

The study, “Health Disparities in Drug- and Alcohol-Use Disorders: A 12-Year Longitudinal Study of Youths After Detention,” was published on the website of the American Journal of Public Health. It may by accessed here.

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