Drug abuse is more common among white high school seniors than among black seniors and those in most other racial or ethnic groups, according to a University of Michigan study released Monday.
American Indian high school seniors had the highest overall rates of substance abuse - including illegal drugs, alcohol and cigarettes - among the 17,000 high school seniors examined during the 13-year study in 135 high schools nationwide.White seniors, the study showed, had the next highest rates for most drugs while Hispanic seniors had intermediate levels. Asian Americans had the lowest rates and black seniors - contradicting stereotypes - had levels nearly as low.
The report was based on data from 14 nationally representative surveys conducted each spring of high school seniors from 1976 through 1989.
Substance abuse among the 17- and 18-year-olds surveyed is broken down within three time frames - 1976-79, 1980-84 and 1985-89.
For the latest period, researchers found 44 percent of American Indian females and 42 percent of Native American males reported using marijuana at least once in the past year, compared with 36 percent of white females and 40 percent of white males. Among blacks, 30 percent of males and 18.4 percent of females had used marijuana during the previous year.
Since 1979 marijuana use has declined among all racial ethnic grups, but throughout the period higher percentages of Indian, white and Mexican American seniors used marijuana than black, Latin American and Asian American seniors.
Cocaine use, the researchers reported, increased between the late 1970s and early 1980s but has declined since then. Although numbers of users are relatively small, making it difficult to generalize about use among some racial ethnic groups, "we can assert with confidence that throughout the 1980s black and Asian American males have reported less cocaine use than have males in other subgroups, and the same can be said for black females compared with other females," the researchers said.