Prevalence of Substance Use Among Youth in the US, by Race/Ethnicity

"For a number of years, 12th-grade African-American students reported lifetime, annual, 30-day, and daily prevalence levels for nearly all drugs that were lower -- sometimes dramatically so -- than those for White or Hispanic 12th graders. That is less true today, with levels of drug use among African Americans more similar to the other groups. This narrowing of the gap between African Americans and other racial/ethnic groups is also seen in 8th and 10th grades, indicating that this narrowing in 12th grade is almost certainly not due primarily to differential dropout rates.
"• The distribution of annual marijuana use by race/ethnicity varies by grade level. In all three grades prevalence is highest among Hispanic students. Differences in prevalence across the groups are proportionately largest in 8th grade (15% for Hispanics and 9% for Whites), somewhat smaller in 10th grade (31% for Hispanics compared to 25% for Whites), and negligible in 12th grade (36% for Hispanics and 35% for Whites). African Americans fall in between Whites and Hispanics in grades 8 and 10 but are slightly below them at 12th grade (33%).
"• A number of drugs have consistently been much less popular among African-American teens than among White teens. These include hallucinogens, amphetamines, sedatives (barbiturates), tranquilizers, and narcotics other than heroin. Several additional drugs have historically been less popular among African-American teens but did not show much difference in 2015 among 8th graders, though they still are less popular in the upper grades. These include LSD, ecstasy, cocaine (in recent years), powder cocaine, and Vicodin.
"• By 12th grade, White students have the highest lifetime and annual prevalence levels among the three major racial/ethnic groups for many substances, including hallucinogens other than LSD, narcotics other than heroin, amphetamines, sedatives (barbiturates), tranquilizers, alcohol, and been drunk. The differentials for LSD have narrowed considerably in recent years as overall prevalence has declined substantially for this drug. Not all of these findings are replicated at lower grade levels, however. See Tables 4-5 and 4-6 for specifics.
"• Hispanics now have the highest annual prevalence for crack and cocaine at all three grade levels. The prevalence of cocaine for Hispanic students has tended to be high compared to the other two racial/ethnic groups, particularly in the lower grades. It bears repeating that Hispanics have a considerably higher dropout rate than Whites or African Americans, based on Census Bureau statistics, which should tend to diminish any such differences by 12th grade, yet there remain sizeable differences in the upper grades."


Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2016). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2015: Volume I, Secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, p. 109. Available at