Race/Ethnicity Differences between Alcohol, Marijuana, and Co-occurring Alcohol and Marijuana Use Disorders and Their Association with Public Health and Social Problems Using a National Sample

Authors

  • Lauren R. Pacek BS,

    1. Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
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  • Robert J. Malcolm MD,

    1. Department of Psychiary and Behavioral Sciences, Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina
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  • Silvia S. Martins MD, PhD

    1. Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
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  • Dr. Martins is now at the Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York. Address correspondence to Ms. Pacek, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 N. Broadway, Hampton House 888, Baltimore, MD 21205. E-mail: lropelew@jhsph.edu.

Abstract

Background: Alcohol and marijuana are commonly used and misused in the United States, both singly and together. Despite this, few studies examine their co-occurring use and the corresponding association with public health and other problems. Moreover, there is a lack of investigation into differences in these associations on the basis of race/ethnicity.

Methods: The present study estimated the frequency of alcohol use disorder, marijuana use disorder, and co-occurring alcohol and marijuana use disorder and their associated public health and social problems in Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics. This cross-sectional study included 13,872 individuals and used data from the 2005–2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Frequency was calculated and multinomial regression was used to assess associations between substance use disorder and psychosocial, adverse consequences such as history of being arrested, substance use treatment, and sexually transmitted infection.

Results: Alcohol use disorder was comparable between, and most prevalent among, Whites and Hispanics compared to African Americans, whereas marijuana use disorder was greatest among African Americans compared to other race/ethnicities. Co-occurring alcohol and marijuana use disorders were most prevalent for African Americans versus Whites and Hispanics, and similar in Whites and Hispanics. In general, major depressive episode was more prevalent for respondents with co-occurring use disorders or single marijuana use disorders. However, race/ethnicity differences in associations between substance use disorder and psychosocial correlates and adverse consequences were observed.

Conclusions: Findings have implications for race/ethnicity appropriate integrated prevention and treatment of single and co-occurring use disorders and psychiatric comorbidities. (Am J Addict 2012;21:435–444)

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