Since 90 percent of addictions start in the teenage years, the results from a new study by The Partnership at Drugfree.org showing a dramatic and alarming increase in drug and alcohol use among Hispanic teens is particularly troubling. The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), sponsored by MetLife Foundation, also reveals that drug use is becoming a normalized behavior among Hispanic youth. Compared to teens from other ethnic groups, more than half (54 percent) of Hispanic teens surveyed said they had used an illicit drug in the past year. In contrast, 45 percent of African-American and 43 percent of Caucasian teens reported illicit drug use in the past 12 months. Other drugs of choice used, and percent of Hispanic, African-American and Caucasian teens reporting such use, include:
- Marijuana – 47 percent (Hispanic), 39 percent (African-American), 36 percent (Caucasian)
- Ecstasy – 13 percent (one in eight Hispanic teens), 8 percent (African-American), 6 percent (Caucasian)
- Cocaine – 13 percent (one in eight Hispanic teens), 8 percent (African-American), 3 percent (Caucasian)
- Alcohol – 62 percent (Hispanic), 59 percent (Caucasian), 50 percent (African-American)
Hispanic Teens Say Drugs Part of their Environment
The study reveals that Hispanic teens are more likely than Caucasian or African-American teens surveyed to say they have friends who use drugs and that Ecstasy, heroin, methamphetamine and crack/cocaine are easy to obtain. Even more troubling is the fact that Hispanic teens report being offered drugs even in their own schools, as well as “too many” being exposed to substance abuse in the community. Sixty-two percent of Hispanic teens said they’ve been offered drugs at least once in their lifetime, compared to 53 and 46 percent of Caucasian and African-American teens, respectively. Forty-two percent of Hispanic teens have been offered drugs at school, versus 30 and 28 percent of Caucasian and African-American teens, respectively. Almost one-quarter (24 percent) of Hispanic teens say they’ve seen “frequent” drug use in their community. The percent for Caucasian and African-American teens is 15 and 24, respectively.
Rx Drug Abuse Skyrocketing Among Hispanic Teens
The study showed that Hispanic teens are two times more likely to have abused or misused a prescription (Rx) drug at least once than they were two years ago. In 2012, 30 percent reported this, versus 17 percent in 2010 – a “noteworthy” 76 percent increase. Here, the breakout by admitted past-year Rx drug abuse/misuse, risky behavior and abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine is as follows:
- 26 percent (Hispanic) abused/misused Rx drug, compared to 15 percent for both Caucasian and African-American teens
- 16 percent (one in seven Hispanic teens), said they’d mixed alcohol and abused prescription drugs (without a prescription). The percent for Caucasian and African-American teens was 11 and six percent, respectively.
- 10 percent (one in 10 Hispanic teens) reported abusing OTC cough medicine during the past year, compared to five percent of Caucasian and African-American teens.
Challenges for Hispanic Parents
The study findings underscore the difficulty and challenges Hispanic parents feel they face in trying to protect their teens. While Hispanic parents surveyed said it is mainly their responsibility to educate their children about drug and alcohol risks and help them seek treatment if needed, they are also more likely to be more permissive toward their teen’s substance abuse. One in five (21 percent) of Hispanic parents think it is acceptable if their teen sometimes smokes marijuana, compared to six percent of Caucasian and 11 percent of African-American parents. Hispanic parents also share some of the same misconceptions about how safe prescription drug abuse is. Twenty-eight percent of Hispanic parents think getting high on prescription drugs is safer than using street drugs to do so. Among Caucasian and African-American parents, the numbers are nine and 20 percent, respectively. Enforcing rules about substance abuse is also acknowledged by Hispanic parents to be difficult. More than one in four (28 percent) say they have trouble with this, versus 16 percent for Caucasian and 29 percent for African-American parents. Hispanic and African-American parents (35 and 32 percent, respectively) feel there is little they can do to help their teenagers avoid substance use, while 21 percent of Caucasian parents say this is an issue.