Drug Use Demographics By Race, Age, And Gender

Understanding disparities in drug use across different races, ages, and genders can be used to identify differences between populations. These insights are important to help healthcare workers and government officials implement policies aimed at reducing harm.

Drug use demographics vary by race, age, and gender, reflecting the complex social, cultural, and individual factors that contribute to substance use disorders.

The Purpose Of Evaluating Drug Use By Demographic

Analyzing drug use patterns across demographics allows us to identify vulnerable populations such as adolescents or low-income individuals who may be at higher risk of substance abuse.

By examining drug use trends within specific demographics, policymakers and healthcare professionals can tailor treatment strategies to effectively reach different groups.

For example, interventions designed for adolescents may focus on school-based education, while those targeting older adults may emphasize managing chronic pain and age-related health issues.

Data on drug use by demographic can also help inform public health policy decisions regarding substance abuse prevention, treatment, and harm reduction efforts.

These insights help officials allocate funding, develop evidence-based interventions, and implement strategies aimed at reducing drug-related harm for everyone.

Drug Use By Race

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug usage and overdose rates have been on the rise for many populations.

In 2021, American Indian and Alaska Native individuals had the highest rate of illicit drug use at 35 percent.

This surpassed rates observed among other populations including:

  • Black or African American (24.3 percent)
  • White Americans (22.5 percent)
  • Hispanic or Latino Americans (19.4 percent)
  • Asian Americans (11.1 percent)

Asian Americans exhibited the lowest rates of illicit drug use in the past year compared to other racial or ethnic groups.

Interestingly, opioid misuse, encompassing heroin use and prescription pain reliever misuse, did not display as large of a difference among any racial or ethnic groups.

Opioid use ranged from the lowest rates of 2.3 percent among Asian individuals to the highest rates of 6.3 percent among multiracial individuals.

Drug Use By Age

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), illegal drug use varies across different age groups, with the highest rates reported among young adults.

It’s estimated that approximately 1.3 million American adolescents ages 12 to 17 have a substance use disorder, which is five percent of all adolescents in the United States.

In the U.S., the rate of past-month illicit drug use among adolescents is:

  • 3.4 percent among those ages 12 to 13
  • 7.9 percent among youth ages 14 to 15
  • 16.5 percent among youth ages 16 to 17

The highest rate of current illicit drug use is among youth ages 18 to 20 at 22.7 percent, with the next highest rate occurring among people ages 21 to 25 at 21.5 percent.

As individuals progress into their thirties and beyond, drug use tends to decrease, primarily due to changing life circumstances, increased responsibilities, and maturity.

However, certain populations, such as those who experience chronic pain or mental health issues, may continue to use drugs beyond young adulthood.

Drug use is also increasing among people in their fifties and sixties. This is, in part, due to aging baby boomers whose rates of illicit drug use have historically been higher than other generations.

Drug Use By Gender

Disparities in substance abuse tendencies between men and women vary across different age groups.

Findings from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reveal that adult men aged 18 or older have nearly double the rate of substance dependence in comparison to adult women.

However, among youths aged 12 to 17, both genders demonstrate similar rates of substance dependence at 6.9 percent.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), women are just as likely as men to develop a substance use disorder.

However, men have higher rates of dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol than women; whereas, women are more likely to misuse prescription drugs.

The Intersectionality Of Race, Age, And Gender

Age, race, and gender all influence substance abuse behaviors, but their intersection can create unique challenges.

For instance, societal expectations and cultural norms surrounding substance use may vary across different combinations of age groups, racial or ethnic backgrounds, and genders.

Additionally, systemic factors such as discrimination and healthcare disparities intersect with age, race, and gender, exacerbating vulnerabilities that lead to substance abuse.

Other Factors That Affect Drug Use Statistics

Beyond age, race, and gender, several other factors influence drug use statistics.

Socioeconomic Status

Individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may face increased risk factors for drug use, such as limited access to education, unstable housing, and higher levels of stress.

Economic disparities can also affect access to treatment resources.

Geographic Location

Drug use patterns can vary based on geographic location, including urban, suburban, and rural areas. Factors such as availability of drugs and access to treatment may differ based on location.

Family History

Having a family history of substance abuse can contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to drug use. Exposure to substance use within the family during childhood can influence later drug use.

Mental Health

Co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders are common underlying causes for drug use.

Individuals with these mental health conditions may use drugs as a form of self-medication to cope with mental health symptoms.

Trauma And Adverse Childhood Experiences

Exposure to trauma and adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction are associated with increased risk of substance abuse later in life.

Trauma can impact brain development and increase susceptibility to addiction.

Ask About Drug Abuse Treatment At Spring Hill

If you or a loved one is experiencing a substance use disorder, professional treatment centers can help. Contact Spring Hill today to learn more.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db334.htm
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/sex-gender-differences-in-substance-use
  3. National Library of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9731175/
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/2022-12/2021NSDUHFFRHighlightsRE123022.pdf
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/sr077-gender-differences-2014.pdf
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/press-announcements/20231113/hhs-samhsa-release-2022-nsduh-data#:~:text=In%202022%2C%2048.7%20million%20people,an%20AUD%20and%20a%20DUD.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt29394/NSDUHDetailedTabs2019/NSDUHDetTabsSect5pe2019.htm

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

Published on: February 27, 2024

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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