New Survey: Hispanic Teen Drug Use Significantly Higher Than Other Ethnic Groups, Substance Abuse Becoming Normalized Behavior Among Latino Youth

~Increase in Hispanic Teens Who Have Misused or Abused a Prescription Medicine At Least Once In Their Lifetime~

Hispanic Teens

the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids today released new research from the latest Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), a nationally projectable survey that tracks teen drug and alcohol use and parent attitudes toward substance abuse among teens. The research, sponsored by MetLife Foundation, shows that Hispanic teens are using drugs at alarmingly higher levels when compared to teens from other ethnic groups. It confirms that substance abuse has become a normalized behavior among Latino youth.

According to the new PATS data, Hispanic teens are more likely to engage in substance abuse when compared to teens from other ethnic groups and are more likely to have abused the following substances within the past year:

  • More than half of Hispanic teens (54 percent) reported having used an illicit drug, versus 45 percent for African-American teens and 43 percent for Caucasian teens.
  • Almost half of Hispanic teens (47 percent) used marijuana, compared to 39 percent for African-American teens and 36 percent for Caucasian teens.
  • One in eight (13 percent) Hispanic teens used Ecstasy, compared to 6 percent for Caucasian teens and 8 percent for African-American teens.
  • One in eight (13 percent) Hispanic teens reported cocaine use, compared to 8 percent for African-American teens and 3 percent for Caucasian teens.
  • Hispanic teens reported they consumed alcohol (62 percent) at a similar rate to Caucasian teens (59 percent) and significantly higher than African-American teens (50 percent).

The PATS data underscore that Hispanic teens are more likely than Caucasian and African-American teens to see drugs as part of their environment: to have friends who use drugs and to feel they have easy access to Ecstasy, crack/cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Hispanic teens are more likely to be offered drugs, even within their own schools and too many are exposed to substance abuse within their own communities:

  • Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of Hispanic teens have been offered drugs at least once in their lifetime, compared to 53 percent for Caucasian teens and 46 percent for African-American teens.
  • More than four in ten (42 percent) Hispanic teens have been offered drugs at their own school, compared to 30 percent for Caucasian teens and 28 percent for African-American teens.
  • Approximately one-quarter (24 percent) of Hispanic teens report seeing frequent drug use in their communities, compared to 15 percent for Caucasian teens and 24 percent for African-American teens.

Increase in Hispanic Teens Who Have Misused/Abused Prescription Drugs At Least Once

Hispanic teens are now almost twice as likely as they were two years ago to have misused or abused a prescription (Rx) medicine at least once in their lifetime (30 percent in 2012 compared to 17 percent in 2010). This reflects a noteworthy 76 percent increase over two years. In 2012:

  • More than one-quarter of Hispanic teens (26 percent) reported having abused or misused a prescription drug in the past year, compared to 15 percent for both Caucasian and African-American teens.
  • One in seven Hispanic teens (16 percent) reported they engaged in the risky behavior of mixing alcohol with abusing prescription drugs (without a prescription), compared to 11 percent for Caucasian teens and 6 percent for African-American teens.
  • One in ten (10 percent) Hispanic teens abused over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine in the past year, compared to 5 percent for both Caucasian and African-American teens.

Hispanic Parents Face Challenges When Protecting Their Kids from Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Teen substance abuse is only one of many challenges Hispanic parents face when it comes to protecting their children. The survey data show that Hispanic parents recognize that they have the main responsibility for educating their teens about the risks of drug and alcohol abuse.

Fortunately, most Hispanic parents (85 percent) understand that teens who start using drugs and alcohol at a younger age are more susceptible to substance abuse problems as they get older, compared to 74 percent for Caucasian parents and 73 percent for African-American parents.  Also, along with African-American parents (93 percent), a majority of Hispanic parents (94 percent) are more likely to report they have taken action once they learned about drug or alcohol use at home, when compared to 86 percent of Caucasian parents.

However the PATS data also found that Hispanic parents are more likely to be permissive toward their teen’s substance abuse and share misconceptions regarding the relative safety of prescription drug abuse:

  • One in five (21 percent) Hispanic parents think “it’s okay if my teen smokes marijuana sometimes,” compared to 6 percent for Caucasian parents and 11 percent for African-American parents.
  • More than one in four (28 percent) Hispanic parents believe using Rx drugs to get high is much safer than using street drugs, compared to 9 percent for Caucasian parents and 20 percent for African-American parents.

“Parents play a critical role in helping shape the development and behavior of their teens and Hispanic parents, unfortunately, often feel helpless in influencing their teens’ behaviors,” said Dr. José Szapocznik, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “The key to making parental influence count is building a positive relationship with your children. Catch your children doing something that you as a parent can validate and reward. Through positive parenting, parents can become more influential in their teens’ lives.”

Jerry Otero, a bilingual parent support specialist on the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’s Parents Toll-Free Helpline (1-855-DRUGFREE), knows the issues that concern Hispanic parents. “From the calls we get to the helpline, we know that Hispanic parents want to know more about teen drug and alcohol use and how these issues affect their children. We hear it firsthand from parents and concerned family members themselves – they want facts, they need guidance and they want to talk to someone so that they can be better equipped to understand and respond to their children’s needs,” said Otero.

Compared to Caucasian parents, Hispanic parents also acknowledge having more difficulty in protecting their teens from substance abuse:

  • More than one in four (28 percent) Hispanic parents have difficulty enforcing rules against substance abuse, compared to 16 percent for Caucasian parents and 29 percent for African-American parents.
  • And more than one-third (35 percent) of Hispanic parents feel there is little they can do to help their teens abstain from substance use, compared to 21 percent for Caucasian parents and 32 percent for African-American parents.

“This new study shows a clear need for us, as Hispanic parents, to educate ourselves about the dangers posed by drug and alcohol abuse within our own community and to set clear rules for our kids,” said Doctora Isabel, a radio psychologist who dispenses advice on crucial issues affecting Hispanic families on her popular live, call-in talk show, “Doctora Isabel” on Univision Radio. “Parents are the biggest influence over the decisions our kids make and we need to talk frequently with them about the risks of drug and alcohol abuse. They will listen!”

Bilingual Web Resources Help Hispanic Families Prevent and Address Teen Drug and Alcohol Use

the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids offers “HablaConTusHijos,” a free, bilingual (Spanish/English) online resource that provides effective, easy-to-use tools equipping Hispanic parents and grandparents to take action in preventing teen substance abuse in their families.

Grounded in research, “HablaConTusHijos” provides science-based guidance to parents and caregivers through clear understandable content. These include customized checklists, how-to guides and powerful videos featuring Hispanic parents and experts discussing various aspects of substance abuse and addiction.

Bilingual Toll-Free Helpline Helps Parents and Caregivers Plan a Course of Action

the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’s bilingual (English/Spanish), toll-free helpline is dedicated to helping parents and families who may not have access to the comprehensive resources at “HablaConTusHijos” or who want to reach out and speak to a qualified parent support specialists about their child’s drug use or drinking.

The Parents Toll-Free Helpline1-855-DRUGFREE(1-855-378-4373) is staffed by specialists with practical experience in substance abuse intervention and treatment. These specialists help parents plan a course of action for teens who are struggling with substance abuse and, if appropriate, supply a short list of resources or treatment facilities in their area. The Parents Toll-Free Helpline is not a 24-hour crisis hotline and is staffed Monday-Friday from 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. EST.

Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey Methodology

The 24th annual Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) of 3,884 teens in grades 9-12 and 817 parents is nationally projectable with a +/- 2.1 percent margin of error for the teen sample and +/- 3.4 percent for the parent sample. The teen sample is comprised of 1,185 Hispanic, 1,377 Caucasian and 689 African-American teens; the parent sample is comprised of 197 Hispanic, 386 Caucasian and 199 African-American parents. Conducted for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and MetLife Foundation by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications, the 2012 PATS teen survey was administered in private, public and parochial schools, while the parent survey was conducted through in-home interviews by deKadt Marketing and Research, Inc. 

For more information in Spanish visit “HablaConTusHijos” or The Parent Tool Kit in English.


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    September 3, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    If you really want to help these children, get rid of the stereotype that they are different because of their skin color. Because it is simply not true, they have a substance abuse problem because they love the way the substance makes them feel. BTW: All those other colors black and white have substance problems also for the same reasons. You give them something that will make them feel as good as the drugs or booze, then you will start to see a decline in the abuse of these substances.
    Drug and booze abuse is at pandemic rates world wide. You figure out how to fix it for one color all the colors will benefit. I want to share my book with you, I think it can help you understand maybe? Yes I am a white person, but I am a white person that has a story that is just like the brown person, yeah and even the black person. Don’t be worried about how rich I will get off of this book, because there is no charge. It is a downloadable ebook, a book that may give you some insights into the monster that you are battling. Remembering that insights are no more than a rearrangement of facts.

    User Picture

    José Viñas

    August 28, 2013 at 11:00 PM

    Sería apropiado reflejar los datos específicos de la escuesta como muestra, universo, nivel socioeconómico, sistema de recoleccion de datos, etc; para tener una mejor idea del planteamiento del estudio y así deducir las conclusiones del mismo

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    Henry Massingale

    August 24, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    Dont get me wrong with what I am about to share, it is good you are paying attention and trying to help. But you tip toe around the truth…Speak the Truth about Pharmaceutical Heroin…Speak the Truth about Opium in Alcohol Drinks….as long as you duck the issue because this Government allows this and will not allows such site as this because it is Government Supported…to Speak The Truth….you will not win….more children will die and be lost to the streets…I am sorry but this is true.
    My name is Henry Massingale
    founder and director of
    The International Boycott Of The Arabic Drug Empire.

    User Picture


    August 24, 2013 at 1:31 AM

    Que piensan acerca de drogar a los niños con HDD, Sindrome de asperger o algun otro problema mental? Tengo un hijo con Asperger y su mama junto con doctores y el distrito escolar Han presionado para medicar a mi hijo, yo soy el unico que no esta de acuerdo en medicarlo con metanfetaminas, estoy luchando en contra de su mama y todos para ayudarle a mi hijo a Salir adelante sin la necesidad de drogas, no quiero que aprenda a depender de droga para poder vivir como un niño el Es un niño Muy travajador y bien portado su problema Es que no tiene enfoque en la Escuela, yo lo he Estado ayudamdo y he visto mucho avanze pero Es mas lento el proceso ya que si mama no coopera y prefiere medicarlo a ponerle tiempo. Si alguien sabe si mi hijo tiene el derecho como niño para no dejar que lo mediquen ayudenme estoy preocupado que la corte ordene que mi hijo sea medicado el tiene Apenas 8 anios de edad Muy joben para comenzar a usar drogas. Gracias

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    August 20, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    Not surprising: I serve in East Tacoma and see this all the time. We are working hard to turn the tide, and it would be wonderful to see more funding to do so. You have no idea how hard it is to work on the meager funds they provide for us, and with the limited quality human resources available. Building talent, networking and subscribing to other services that serve similar communities, and working at an aggressive pace helps. We need not only spanish speakers, but people talented with youth and who understand Hispanic culture.

    ALSO: giving Hispanic residents a legitimate right to participate in their communities, as well as access to rise out of severe poverty and domestic issues would help.

    (And by the way: an Anglo-Saxon is writing this, so put aside racial prejudice.)

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