Here’s a fact that may come as a real shock to people, especially given the massive disparity in the number of arrests, convictions and prison terms for drugs — black people are actually less likely to use and abuse drugs than white people. Another new study confirms that.
“Our goal is to alert people to the burden of drug problems and also to how some of our concern about who has these problems may not be true,” says Dr. Dan Blazer, senior author of the study and a professor of psychiatry at Duke University. “There’s a perception among many individuals that African Americans as a group — regardless of socioeconomic status — tend to abuse or use drugs at higher rate and this [does not support] that.”
Using data from 72,561 youth interviewed for the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, researchers found that 37% of those aged between 12 and 17 had used alcohol or other drugs at least once in the past year. Nearly 8% met criteria for a substance use disorder — either the less severe “substance abuse” diagnosis or the more problematic “substance dependence,” which is more commonly known as addiction.
The study, which was published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry, controlled for variables like socioeconomic status because rates of severe drug problems tend to be greater amongst the poor. Despite this, Native American youth fared worst, with 15% having a substance use disorder, compared to 9.2% for people of mixed racial heritage, 9.0% for whites, 7.7% for Hispanics, 5% for African Americans and 3.5% for Asians and Pacific Islanders.
From 1980 to 2007, blacks were arrested at a rate of at least 2.8 times that of whites, and as high as 5.5 times. Those numbers do not lie, they reveal something utterly shameful. They reveal, as Michelle Alexander puts it, a new Jim Crow system.