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Drug use among Natives highest in nation
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Native Americans were more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to have driven while drugged last year, according to statistics released by the federal government on Tuesday.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health asked millions of Americans aged 12 or order to report whether they have driven under the influence of illicit drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Of the American Indians and Alaska Natives who participated in the survey, 6.3 percent said they had.

The rate was the highest of all groups in the country. It was followed by Whites (5 percent), African-Americans (4.5 percent), Hispanics (3.7 percent), Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (3.1 percent) and Asians (1.3 percent).

Native drugged driving was also higher than the national rate of 5 percent, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, reported. According to the survey, 11 million Americans drove under the influence of drugs in 2002.

The statistics reflect high rates of illicit drug use among American Indians and Alaska Natives. The SAMHSA survey, which was made public earlier this month, found that 10.1 percent of Natives used drugs, the highest rate except for those of multiple racial origin.

Drug use among Native youth is also significantly high, according to the survey. Among youths aged 12 to 17, 20.9 percent of Natives said they used drugs. This was nearly twice the rate of all youths (11.6 percent).

According to yesterday's report, drugged driving among Americans aged 18 to 21 increased last year while falling among those 22 and older. Among adults aged 26 to 49, those who were unemployed were more likely to have driven under the influence of illegal drugs in the past year compared with part-time or full-time workers, the survey said.

White House drug czar John P. Walters said one in six high school seniors admitted to driving under the influence of marijuana last year. "Marijuana is harmful and can lead to risky decisions, such as driving while high or riding with drivers who are impaired," he said.

Alcohol use among Natives remains high, according to the SAMHSA survey. Binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least once in the past month, was reported by 22.6 percent of underage American Indians and Alaska Natives, a rate comparable to that of Whites but far above other racial and ethnic groups.

Among Natives 12 and older, 37.1 percent said they used tobacco. This was the highest rate in the country and comparable to smoking among those of more than one race.

For the past four years, Native youths have topped the SAMHSA drug survey despite a $5 million investment in Indian Country outreach programs. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has run print and broadcast ads that were developed by consulting Native health leaders, government agencies and research among Native communities.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health was previously called the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. It is conducted yearly with more than 68,000 interviewees. Reporting methods were changed for the 2002 report and SAMHSA cautions against comparing the data to previous reports.

Drug Use Reports:
Drugged Driving: 2002 Update (September 16, 2003) | Overview of Findings from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (September 5, 2003)

Relevant Links:
White House National Drug Control Policy - http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov

Related Stories:
Native youth top drug use survey again (09/06)
Native youth targeted in anti-drug ads (5/17)
Native youth heaviest smokers in nation (4/3)
Report: Native youth highest drug users (10/5)
Ad campaign targets youth drug use (9/7)
Drug use high among Native youth (9/1)

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