Substance Use Trends Among Blacks

Bottles of alcohol on a bar counterIt doesn’t matter if you’re a superstar like Rick James or an everyday person from your neighborhood, substance abuse can take over your body and your life. Rates of past month alcohol use and binge alcohol use were lower among black adults aged 18 or older than the national average for adults (44.3 vs. 55.2 percent and 21.7 vs. 24.5 percent, respectively); the rate of past month illicit drug use, however, was higher among black adults than the national average (9.5 vs. 7.9 percent).

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The rate of need for treatment for an alcohol use problem in the past year among black adults was similar to that of the national average among adults (7.7 and 8.1 percent); however, the rate of need for treatment for an illicit drug use problem was higher among blacks than the national average (4.4 vs. 2.9 percent)

One in seven (14.2 percent) black adults in need of alcohol treatment in the past year and 24.2 percent of those in need of illicit drug treatment received treatment at a specialty facility; both of these rates were higher than the national averages for adults

Over the past several decades, the population of the United States has become increasingly diverse. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about one third of the population belongs to a racial/ethnic minority group; this percentage is projected to increase to 54 percent by 2050.

As the country becomes more diverse, it becomes increasingly important to address health and health care disparities related to race/ethnicity, as well as age and gender, socioeconomic status, geography, and disability. The Nation’s success in reducing these disparities today, to a large extent, will determine the health of our Nation tomorrow.

One area of concern is assessing substance use and abuse and ensuring access to substance abuse treatment. Substance abuse affects millions of people every year and has untold health, social, and economic costs for individuals, families, and communities. Although it affects people in all racial/ethnic groups, research has shown that there is considerable variation among these groups.

Gaining a better understanding of the behavioral health needs of particular racial/ethnic groups can help inform public health policy, build prevention and treatment programs that target the different needs of these populations, and ultimately ensure that services are available to all individuals who need them.

This report uses data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) to examine substance use and treatment need among non-Hispanic black or African American adults (hereafter referred to as “black adults”) aged 18 or older.

Later reports in this series will examine similar issues among black adolescents and among adults and adolescents in other racial/ethnic groups. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 37 million people—12.2 percent of the total population in 2008—identify themselves as non-Hispanic blacks of one race.

The first section of this report provides trends in substance use using NSDUH data from 2002 to 2008; the remaining sections present annual averages using combined data from 2004 or 2005 to 2008.

 For more information, visit SAMHSA.