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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Gender and Race May Dictate When People Start Using

New research suggests that gender and race play an important role with regards to when someone begins using substances, such as cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. Researchers at The Pennsylvania State University, analyzed four sets of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health survey, beginning in 1994, followed by 1996, 2001 and 2008 using the same participants, ScienceDaily reports. The new findings will help prevention programs gauge when is the best time to educate people regarding the dangers of using drugs and alcohol.

The researchers found that the use of cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana among white teenagers was significantly higher than black and Hispanic teenagers, especially at 18 years old, according to the article. They found, among whites, that the rates of alcohol and marijuana use continue to increase until age 20. However, blacks and Hispanics were found to be more likely to pick up cigarettes in their 20’s, and cigarette use began to decrease for whites.

At 18.5 years old:
  • 44 percent of whites smoked cigarettes.
  • 27 percent of Hispanics smoked cigarettes.
  • 18 percent of blacks smoked cigarettes.

At 29 years old:
  • 40 percent of whites were using cigarettes.
  • 30 percent of Hispanics were using cigarettes.
  • 31 percent of blacks were using cigarettes.

"I think that the most important point is that there are big age-related differences in substance use by gender and race/ethnicity," said Rebecca J. Evans-Polce, postdoctoral fellow, at Penn State’s Bennett Pierce Prevention Center. "In particular, African Americans show an increased prevalence in cigarette use much later than white adolescents. We need to think about tobacco prevention interventions that are targeted towards young adults, when use is increasing among African Americans, instead of just for younger adolescents."

"Our research corroborated previous research showing differences in when individuals use substances depending on their race/ethnicity and gender," said Evans-Polce. "But seeing the large difference particularly in cigarette use by race/ethnicity was surprising and being able to see this all graphically really brought the point home in a novel way."

The findings were published in Addictive Behaviors.

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