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Ethnicity—The rate of current illicit drug use for African Americans (7.9 percent) remained somewhat higher than for Caucasians, (6.0 percent) and Hispanics (5.1 percent). However, among youths (ages 12–17) the rates of use are about the same across the three groups. Most current illicit drug users (have used at least one illicit drug in the past month) are Caucasian representing 75 percent of all users (9.6 million); African Americans make up 15 percent (1.9 million), and Hispanics 8 percent (1.0 million). Although in selected age groups and with specific kinds of drugs there is an increased variability among different ethnic groups, the statistics rebut the prevailing racial stereotypes that minorities are the most prevalent users of illicit drugs. Among Native American populations, the survey literature of high school students indicates that, on average, rates of lifetime use and abuse of drugs, including alcohol, are higher among Native American than non-Native American youths (Libran and Smart, 1982; May, 1996; Winfree and Griffiths, 1985; Winfree et al., 1989). However, it is also noted that nonreservation Native American youths have higher rates of drug use compared to those living on reservations. These surveys present only averaged data from a variety of schools and locations and it is important to note that there is substantial variation among different Native American communities and tribal groups.
Gender—Men continue to have higher rates of current illicit drug use than women (7.8 percent vs. 4.5 percent).
Geography—Current illicit drug use rates ranged from 7.8 percent in the Western region of the United States to 4.9 in the Northeast; there was little difference in rates of use in large metropolitan areas, small metropolitan areas, and rural areas.
Education—Illicit drug use rates remain highly correlated with educational status; among 18- to 34-year-olds, those who had not completed high school had the highest rate of use (15.4 percent), while college graduates had the lowest (5.9 percent). However, lifetime prevalence rates (i.e., having tried illicit drugs at least once in their life) are equal regardless of educational status.
Employment—Current employment status is also highly correlated with rates of illicit drug use. In 1995, 14.3 percent of unemployed adults (age 18 and older) were current illicit drug users, compared to 5.5 percent of full-time employed adults. Seventy-one percent of all current illicit drug users age 18 and older (7.4 million adults) were employed, including 5.4 million full-time workers and 1.9 million part-time workers.
The number of Americans age 12 and older who had used alcohol in the past month was estimated at 111 million (52 percent of the population) in 1995. Of those 111 million, 32 million engaged in binge drinking (5 or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past month), including approximately 11 million who are considered heavy drinkers consuming 5 or more drinks per occasion on