The Partnership at DrugFree.org sent out a press release this week claiming an epidemic in drug use among Hispanic youth. Entitled “New Survey: Hispanic Teen Drug Use Significantly Higher Than Other Ethnic Groups, Substance Abuse Becoming Normalized Behavior Among Latino Youth,” the article cites data from the PATS survey.
The PATS survey stands for “Partnership Attitude Tracking Study” and if you noticed the study and the organization touting it both start with “Partnership,” then you probably won’t be surprised that the study is designed by and administered by DrugFree.org.
According to this new survey and the press release touting it, “Hispanic teens are more likely to engage in substance abuse when compared to teens from other ethnic groups and are more likely to have abused the following substances within the past year.” The first bullet point of the release explains, “More than half of Hispanic teens (54%) reported having used an illicit drug, versus 45% for African-American teens and 43% for Caucasian teens.”
Nobody at HIGH TIMES wants to see teenagers doing drugs. However, the idea that over half the Hispanic kids and over two-in-five non-Hispanic kids are doing drugs seemed a bit exaggerated. So for comparison, we consulted the data found in the National Survey on Drug Use & Health (NSDUH). This survey has been conducted since 1979 and is the source generally quoted for statistics on American drug use.
Interestingly, in the NSDUH, figures for past-year drug use among people aged 12-17 are less than half what the PATS is claiming. In 2011, 19.0% of white kids, 19.9% of black kids, and 20.0% of Hispanic kids had used any illicit drug in the past year. Compared to the latest PATS claim of 43% of white kids, 45% of black kids, and 54% of Hispanic kids, the 2011 NSDUH kids are pretty tame.
That Hispanic kids use drugs at about the same rates as other kids is a fairly standard result from all the NSDUH's. In 2006, the figures for white, black, Hispanic were 20.1%, 18.2%, 18.3%. In 2001, they were 21.5%, 17.3%, 20.8%. Even in 1979, the peak year of youth drug use in America, the figures are 27.9%, 26.5%, and 21.9% - Hispanic kids, if anything, have been using drugs at about the same rate for 34 years, according to NSDUH.
So how did DrugFree.org get stats showing more than twice as much youth drug use and a wide gap between Hispanics and non-Hispanics? It’s hard to tell, but Hispanics are the fastest-growing demographic group in America and DrugFree.org is advertising its “HablaConTusHijos” online resource. You make the call.