Drug use high among Native youth
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American Indian and Alaska Native youth ages 12 through 17 have the highest illicit drug use rate in the country, according to a survey by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, released on Thursday, reports that 19.6 percent of Native youth in the 12 to 17 age group had used drugs in the past month.

In comparison, the youth rate of use was 8.4 percent for Asian-Americans, 10.9 percent for White, 10.7 percent for African-Americans, 11.4 percent for Hispanics, and 11.6 percent for youths of multiple races.

Overall, Native Americans and Alaska Natives had among the highest rates of illicit drug use ages 12 and above. A reported 10.6 percent of the Native population had used drugs in the past month while 11.2 percent of mixed race individuals reported the same.

But illicit drug use wasn't the only category where Native Americans reported high usage. The Survey shows that 43.1 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives ages 12 and above had used at least one form of tobacco within the last month.

Alcohol use was also high among Native youth. The rate of binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion, was 22.6 percent for Natives ages 12 to 20, followed closely by 21.9 percent for Whites.

Nationwide drug use among teens is down. From 1997 to 1999, illicit drug use among youth ages 12 to 17 has dropped from 11.4 percent to 9.0 percent.

"More of our young people are obviously getting the message that drugs are not the stuff of dreams, but the stuff of nightmares," said Secretary Donna Shalala said yesterday.

But are Native youth getting the message? The 1999 report contains data on drug use among Native Americans while previous reports included data only for White, African-American, Hispanic, and "Other" populations.

Get the Report:
1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (SAMHSA August 2000)

Relevant Links:
Department of Health and Human Services -
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration -