Link between racial discrimination and substance use

Armen Hareyan's picture
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In one of the first studies to focus on the relationship between racial discrimination and health risk behaviors, researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health with colleagues from the Universities of Minnesota, Alabama (Birmingham), and California (San Francisco), and Harvard University found African Americans experiencing racial discrimination were more likely to report current tobacco use or recent alcohol consumption and lifetime use of marijuana and cocaine.

Although racial discrimination was far less common in Whites (38%) than in African Americans (89%), the researchers assessed whether parallel associations exist in Whites and found similar associations with smoking, alcohol, and lifetime use of marijuana and cocaine as they did in African Americans. Thus, substance use may be an unhealthy coping response to perceived unfair treatment for some individuals regardless of their race/ethnicity.

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