Native youth top drug use survey again
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Native American teenagers continue to use illicit drugs at record rates, according to statistics released on Thursday.

For the third year in a row, Native youth ages 12-17 reported drug use at rates far surpassing their peers. Based on the 2001 figures, 22.1 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native teens used marijuana, cocaine and other illicit substances.

In comparison, only 11.3 percent of white, 10.1 percent of Hispanic and 9.1 percent of African-American youth said they used drugs in the past month. Asian youth had the lowest reported rate at 8.0 percent.

"We have a large and growing denial gap when it comes to drug abuse and dependency in this country," said John Walters, the White House drug czar who earlier this year launched a new set of advertisements aimed at combating the alarming rates of Native substance abuse.

Despite a $5 million investment in Indian Country over the past two years, illicit drug use hasn't dropped. Figures from the 2000 report, for example, showed 22.6 percent of Native youth reported substance abuse.

Tobacco use hasn't changed substantially either. According to the survey, 29.0 percent of Native teens reported cigarette smoking last year, a rate unchanged from 27.3 percent in 2000.

Still, this was nearly twice the rate of white youth, three times that of Hispanics, four times that of Asians and more than four times the rate of African-American youth.

Underage alcohol consumption was also high. The survey found 35.0 percent of Native youth used alcohol last year, unchanged from 2000. Only white youth reported a higher rate at 52.7 percent

Binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion, was equally high among Native Americans and whites.

The high rates of drug, alcohol and tobacco use was reflected in the adult population. American Indian and Alaska Natives ages 12 and older had the highest rate, 9.9 percent, of substance abuse in the nation.

Yesterday's data comes from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, described by the Department of Health and Human Services as as the most "accurate and comprehensive" picture of drug abuse ever.

Get the Report:
2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (9/5)

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