Does Diversity Matter?

The Need for Longitudinal Research on Adolescent Alcohol and Drug Use Trajectories

Published in: Substance Use and Misuse, v. 49, no. 8, June 2014, p. 1069-1073

Posted on RAND.org on May 16, 2014

by Elizabeth J. D'Amico, Joan S. Tucker, Regina A. Shih, Jeremy N. V. Miles

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The existing research aimed at understanding alcohol and drug (AOD) use patterns from early to late adolescence typically does not examine samples with substantial racial and ethnic diversity. This is a critical research gap because studies have suggested that non-white adolescents often have worse health outcomes compared to white adolescents, even with less AOD use. In this paper, we discuss the need for future research on this topic, given demographic shifts in the racial and ethnic composition of the USA. We also outline how this research can provide information on what periods might be most relevant for each racial/ethnic group, and suggest measures that epidemiological studies on early substance use should assess to capture the underlying cultural, acculturation, psychosocial, and contextual factors that explain racial/ethnic differences in AOD trajectories.

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