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NIDA. (2003, August 1). Gender and Ethnic Patterns in Drug Use Among High School Seniors. Retrieved from https://archives.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2003/08/gender-ethnic-patterns-in-drug-use-among-high-school-seniors

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August 01, 2003

Although rates of marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco use by 12th-grade boys and girls declined over the 25-year period ending in 2000, the "gender gap" in use of these drugs remained largely unchanged. According to data compiled by the annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, senior girls were 77 percent as likely as boys (compared with 78 percent in 1976) to have reported using marijuana in the past month. Girls in the 12th-grade class of 2000 were 64 percent as likely (up from 54 percent in 1976) to have had five or more drinks in a row during the past 2 weeks, and girls and boys were equally likely to be daily smokers.

Ethnic differences in drug use--for boys as well as girls--are much wider than are gender differences. A recently published review of MTF data reveals that these ethnic differences are significant and have persisted since MTF began collecting drug use data in 1976. Key substance use patterns among ethnic groups and gender differences within those groups are presented below.

Smoking

Daily smoking declined among all ethnic groups between 1976 and 1990, then leveled off before beginning to increase modestly between 1996 and 2000. Among ethnic groups, Native Americans were most likely to smoke and African Americans least likely. Within ethnic groups, African-American girls were less likely than boys to be daily smokers.

Alcohol

Girls were less likely than boys to report heavy alcohol use (five or more drinks in a row within the past 2 weeks), and the prevalence for girls and boys over the 25-year period ending in 2000 generally decreased. Among ethnic groups, Native Americans were most likely to report heavy drinking; Asian-American and African-American 12th-graders reported the lowest prevalence. No significant gender differences in alcohol use emerged within ethnic groups.

Marijuana

Overall, 12th-grade boys in all ethnic groups were somewhat more likely than girls to have used marijuana within the past 30 days. Prevalence rates for girls and boys declined between 1976 and 1990, held steady until 1995, and increased between 1996 and 2000. Among ethnic groups, Native Americans were most likely and Asian Americans least likely to have used marijuana within the past month.

Source

  • Wallace, J.M., et al. Gender and ethnic differences in smoking, drinking and illicit drug use among American 8th, 10th and 12th grade students, 1976-2000. Addiction 98(2):225-234, 2003.

Substance Use Among High School Seniors, 1976-2000*

  12th-Grade Females 12th-Grade Males
'76-'80 '81-'85 '86-'90 '91-'95 '96-'00 '76-'80 '81-'85 '86-'90 '91-'95 '96-'00
Daily Cigarette Smoking
White 28.8 23.6 22.6 22.2 27.2 24.4 18.6 19.2 22.3 26.3
Black 20.8 12.2 5.8 3.4 5.1 21.9 10.8 7.7 6.5 10.9
Mexican American 15.6 13.2 8.4 9.3 11.0 19.1 13.2 11.8 12.6 15.1
Puerto Rican/**
Other Latin American
18.0 15.0 12.4 15.2

10.8
17.9

9.8
18.7 13.7 12.4 22.5

8.9
23.4

15.3
Asian American 13.3 10.2 8.0 8.6 10.1 14.5 11.5 10.8 12.9 14.3
Native American 49.8 39.8 30.5 34.2 34.2 38.7 30.8 25.7 32.4 24.7
Heavy Alcohol Use Within Past 2 Weeks
White 32.1 34.1 30.8 24.6 28.0 53.4 52.9 46.8 39.7 42.4
Black 12.1 11.1 8.6 7.6 8.3 27.5 24.8 22.9 19.9 18.0
Mexican American 25.0 26.8 21.4 19.6 23.4 52.0 48.3 44.1 38.8 40.6
Puerto Rican/**
Other Latin American
21.9 18.5 13.0 16.2

15.5
18.0

19.4
36.6 34.6 30.3 34.2

26.7
27.0

32.6
Asian American 14.7 11.4 9.0 8.2 11.1 28.4 22.4 19.4 15.2 18.9
Native American 40.9 38.3 30.8 26.9 32.5 62.8 57.6 46.8 46.2 41.5
Marijuana Use Within Past 30 Days
White 30.8 24.6 17.9 15.0 20.8 40.4 31.6 22.5 19.7 26.0
Black 22.1 20.1 7.2 6.8 12.7 36.6 29.2 14.6 15.9 26.6
Mexican American 25.9 21.2 11.7 10.5 18.7 39.8 36.9 19.5 19.9 29.3
Puerto Rican/**
Other Latin American
19.5 14.4 8.7 10.8

11.0
20.7

12.9
34.7 22.7 17.2 26.4

13.7
26.7

19.6
Asian American 18.3 13.8 5.2 5.1 9.1 31.2 13.0 9.8 9.0 16.0
Native American 44.7 30.3 19.7 21.5 32.0 50.9 36.1 26.6 25.5 27.2

*Percentage Prevalence shown as the mean for each 5-year span.
**Beginning in 1990, the data distinguish between Puerto Rican and Other Latin American.

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