American Renaissance

Substance Use among Hispanic Youth in the U.S.

Office of National Drug Control Policy

Background

Hispanics are the youngest, largest, and fastest growing ethnic population in the United States.1 With more than 38.8 million current residents, Hispanics accounted for half of the population increase of 6.9 million in the United States since April 1, 2000.2 The continued growth in the Hispanic population is attributed to immigration and birth rates.3

  • The Hispanic population across the country is young and diverse. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, one in three Hispanics is under age 18.4 With origins from all parts of the world, there are complex differences in language, culture, traditions, and family customs among Hispanics.
  • Approximately 40 percent of Hispanics are foreign born.5
  • Hispanics place great emphasis on family. In fact, more Latinos (89 percent) than whites (67 percent) and African Americans (68 percent) agree that relatives are more important than friends.6
  • According to a recent study, about two-thirds of Hispanic teens see great risk of upsetting their parents and more than half see great risk of losing the respect of family and friends if they smoke marijuana.7

Drug Use Among Hispanic Youth

One in 10 Hispanic youth 12 — 17 years old report using illicit drugs in the past month, according to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health.8

  • Among the racial/ethnic groups surveyed in the 2002 Monitoring the Future Study, Hispanic eighth graders tend to have the highest rates of past-year drug use for most illegal drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.9

Risk Factors Contributing to Drug Use

Research over the past two decades have identified risk factors contributing to drug use. Risk factors for Hispanic youth include the following.

  • Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to live in poverty. In 2002, 21.4 percent of Hispanics were living in poverty, comparted to 7.8 percent of non-Hispanic whites.10
  • More than two in five Hispanics aged 25 and older have not graduated from high school.11

References

1“Hispanic Population Reaches All-Time High of 38.8 Million, New Census Bureau Estimates Show,” U.S. Department of Commerce, June 18, 2003.

2“Hispanic Population Reaches All-Time High of 38.8 Million, New Census Bureau Estimates Show,” U.S. Department of Commerce, June 18, 2003.

3“Hispanic Population Reaches All-Time High of 38.8 Million, New Census Bureau Estimates Show,” U.S. Department of Commerce, June 18, 2003.

4“Hispanic Population Reaches All-Time High of 38.8 Million, New Census Bureau Estimates Show,” U.S. Department of Commerce, June 18, 2003.

5The Hispanic Population in the United States: March 2002, (PDF) U.S. Census Bureau, p.3.

62002 National Survey of Latinos. (PDF) Pew Hispanic Center, p. 56.

7Partnership Attitude Tracking Study 2003 Teens Study: Survey of Teens’ Attitudes and Behaviors Toward Marijuana, (PDF) p. 62.

8Overview of Findings from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, (PDF) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, p.13.

9Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975 — 2001. (PDF) Volume I: Secondary school students, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Table 4 — 9.

10The Hispanic Population in the United States: March 2002, (PDF) U.S. Census Bureau, p.6.

11The Hispanic Population in the United States: March 2002, (PDF) U.S. Census Bureau, p.4.