Report: Hispanic Drug Use Up

Hispanic teenagers used illegal drugs at greater rates than white and black teenagers, according to a report released Monday by a White House drug control policy office.

The report, "Hispanic Teens & Drugs," warned that while overall illegal drug use among U.S. teens was down, Hispanic teens' use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine outpaced use by their white and black peers. The report blamed drug use among Hispanic teens, in part, on their adaptation to new culture in America.

Besides the report, which was based on 2005 and 2006 data from academic, federal and nonprofit organization studies, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy also announced an anti-drug ad campaign targeting Hispanic teens and their parents that will begin appearing this week across the country.

The report found slightly more than 10 percent of Hispanic eighth-graders had used illicit drugs in the month before the survey compared to 7.5 percent of whites and 8.6 percent of blacks in the same grade.

Marijuana was the most commonly used illegal drug among all teens, the report said. Eight percent of Hispanic eighth-graders had used it in the month before the survey; for whites and blacks the percentages were 5.8 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively, the report said.

Higher percentages of Hispanic eighth-graders also used inhalants, cocaine and methamphetamine, followed by their white and then black counterparts, the report said.

The report, which didn't mention Asians, partly blamed Hispanics' adoption of American cultural and lifestyle habits, called acculturation; acculturated Hispanics were almost 13 times as likely to report using illegal drugs as non-acculturated Hispanics, the report said.

Citing an unnamed study, the report said 7 percent of acculturated Hispanics reported using illegal drugs within the previous month compared to less than 1 percent of non-acculturated Hispanics and 6 percent of whites.

Overall, illegal drug use among eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders was down 23 percent since 2001, the report said.

"We're heartened to see teen drug use declining, but clearly much more needs to be done," said Hector Gesualdo, executive director of ASPIRA of New York, an advocacy group for Hispanic youth.

He called the figures in the report "a cry for help."

"We know firsthand that our after-school programs, mentors and parent workshops are highly effective in keeping young Latinos in school, off the street and away from drugs," Gesualdo said. "ASPIRA is committed to stepping up its efforts and looks forward to working with (the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy) on this vital initiative."

This week the office and more than a dozen community and national organizations, including ASPIRA, will launch print and television ad campaigns targeting parents and teens. One campaign, dubbed an Open Letter to Parents, features ads emphasizing that illegal drug use hinders academic success, which the office says Hispanics "emphasize and value particularly."

The ads also offer parents tips. Among them: Get children involved in extracurricular activities; be involved in teens' lives; monitor teens' Internet use; have candid conversations with teens about illegal drugs.

A deputy director of the drug control policy office, Scott Burns, said teens are less likely to use illegal drugs if they learn about the risks from their parents.

"But research shows parents are having fewer and fewer conversations about drug use," Burns said. "Hispanic teens say fear of upsetting their parents is the main reason why they don't use drugs, and parents can use this influence to help prevent drug use."