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Drug Use Among Minority Groups

The four main minority groups in the US are African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs). Patterns pertaining to alcohol abuse and alcoholism differ widely among these minority groups. Data on current (12 or more drinks in the last year) and heavy drinking (five drinks on a single day at least once a month) suggest alcohol consumption is most prevalent among the AI/ANs and lowest among the AAPIs (who are one of the fastest growing minority populations). Consistent with this is that deaths from chronic liver disease are four times more prevalent among AI/ANs than the general US population. (Note: The data in this paragraph came from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)

Following are some comments specific to each minority group (from a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse: Drug Use Among Racial Ethnic Minorities).

Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders

This group consists of more than 60 separate racial/ethnic groups and subgroups. During the late 1980s and early 1990s there were serious outbreaks of methamphetamine use in Guam, Saipan and in parts of western Micronesia called “ice smoking.” This was fueled by supply lines in the Philippines and Japan. However, while statistics show that more than 6% of Americans age 12 and older are illegal drug users, the corresponding percentage for (AAPIs) is 2.7%. Within that group an estimated 6.9% of Korean Americans were reported to be illegal drug users. Chinese Americans were at 1.0%.

American Indians/Alaska Natives

This population has not been well represented in national statistics meaning there are too few survey participants from this group. Studies that have been done however, indicate heavy use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs to the point that they are serious health problems. If compared to the 6% of all Americans over 12 years of age that use illegal drugs, the estimate for this group is 12.6%. Another observation is that the youth in this minority group have been observed using tobacco and alcohol at an earlier age than their White counterparts.

African Americans

African Americans comprise 12.6% of the American population according to the US Census. The prevalence estimates for recent illegal drug use are roughly equivalent for non-Hispanic African Americans and Whites. Slightly more than 6 percent of these population members qualify as active and current illegal drug users as reported in the survey. The report did state that illegal drug use and drug trafficking are still major problems in US African American communities.


The report suggested that Puerto Ricans were more likely to be current illegal drug users (10.1 percent) than their counterparts in the general population age 12 years and older (where 6% was the estimate). Cuban Americans were less likely to be illegal drug users (3.7 percent) and Americans of Mexican heritage (5.5 percent) and Central or South American origin (4.1 percent) were more in the mid range.

No matter what your ethnicity, if you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, you need to get help now before it’s too late. Addiction is a progressive disease that left untreated generally results in injury, illness, depression, legal consequences and death. Don’t become a statistic; call us right now, no matter what time it is or how bad your problem is. We’ve been there too, and we can help.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More