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Minority teens' views of drug use differ from reality

Most young Black adolescents appear to believe that their Black peers use drugs more than White or Hispanic teens, when in reality studies show that fewer Black youth use alcohol or other drugs than do youth of other ethnic groups, a Penn State researcher says.

"Of all Blacks surveyed in our study, almost two out of three perceived that Black adolescents take more drugs than White or Hispanic young people," says Dr. Michelle Miller-Day, associate professor of communication arts and sciences. Of the Black teens who reported using alcohol or other drugs, 100 percent believed that Black adolescents used more drugs than Whites and Hispanics in the same age group.

According to Miller-Day's own data, only 16 percent of the Black youth queried, admitted using drugs within the past few months, compared to 24 percent of the White youth surveyed. This discovery corroborated earlier and quite extensive findings by the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse that revealed that that the overall White population in the United States exceeded the Black population in the use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine, heroin and inhalants.

Interestingly, in Miller-Day's study, it is the Black students' sense of ethnic identity as "Being Blacks" that provides an important incentive in causing them to stay off alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

Her findings showed that young White adolescents overwhelmingly believe that White youth use fewer drugs than other ethnic groups. "However -- in contrast to Black adolescents - few of the White youth perceived ethnic identity as important to their sense of self," says the Penn State researcher.

Miller-Day and Dr. Jacqueline M. Barnett of Bloomsburg University published their findings in the article, " 'I'm Not a Druggie': Adolescents' Ethnicity and (Erroneous) Beliefs About Drug Use Norms," which appeared recently in the journal Health Communication. The researchers took their sample of 67 volunteer partic
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Contact: Paul Blaum
pab15@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
7-Dec-2004


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