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

NEW YORK, Aug. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Partnership at 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. Jose Szapocznik, Ph.D., 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 at'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 at 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 at'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 Helpline – 1-855-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 at 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.

About The Partnership at
Ninety percent of addictions start in the teenage years. The Partnership at is dedicated to solving the problem of teen substance abuse. Together with experts in science, parenting and communications, the nonprofit translates research on teen behavior, addiction and treatment into useful and effective resources for both individuals and communities. Working toward a vision where all young people will be able to live their lives free of drug and alcohol abuse, The Partnership at works with parents and other influencers to help them prevent and get help for drug and alcohol abuse by teens and young adults. The organization depends on donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and the public sector and is thankful to SAG-AFTRA and the advertising and media industries for their ongoing generosity.

About MetLife Foundation
MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 to continue MetLife's longstanding tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. The Foundation is committed to building a secure future for individuals and communities worldwide. Since it was established, MetLife Foundation has provided more than $530 million in grants to nonprofit organizations addressing issues that have a positive impact in their communities. For more information, visit

On the Web:
Bilingual Helpline: 1-855-DRUGFREE

SOURCE The Partnership at
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