Epidemiology of substance abuse among Latinos

Sherry Lipsky, Raul Caetano

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The importance of conducting substance abuse research among ethnic minorities is underscored by findings that members of many ethnic minorities in the United States report higher rates of heavy drinking and alcohol-related problems than do Whites and have increased rates of illicit drug use, abuse, and dependence. It is important to better understand ethnic-specific substance use from a public health perspective. Recent data suggest that the prevalence of past month alcohol use and heavy alcohol use among Hispanics is lower than and the prevalence of binge drinking and alcohol abuse or dependence is comparable to that of non-Hispanic Whites. These estimates vary among Hispanic subgroups and across gender and age groups. The prevalence of past month illicit drug use is also lower among Hispanics than that of several other groups, including non-Hispanic Whites. These trends are consistent among both men and women, although the prevalence for men is nearly twice that of women in nearly all subgroups. Conversely, the prevalence of illicit drug abuse or dependence among Hispanics is slightly higher than that of non-Hispanic Whites. This article describes national level epidemiological data on the prevalence of alcohol and illicit drug use, abuse, and dependence among Latinos/Hispanics in the United States in comparison to other race and ethnic groups. Previous findings in the literature will be reviewed and new analyses using the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health will be presented. Given the heterogeneity of Hispanics in the United States, data for Hispanics will be broken down by national groups whenever possible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-260
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2009


  • Epidemiology
  • Ethnic minorities
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)


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