Differential racial/ethnic patterns in substance use initiation among young, low-income women

Z. Helen Wu, Jeff R. Temple, Navkiran K. Shokar, Tracy U. Nguyen-Oghalai, James J. Grady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Accumulating research suggests that the gateway hypothesis of substance use may not apply equally across different race/ethnicity groups. Objectives: The current study examines racial and ethnic differences in patterns of initiation of licit and illicit substance use. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted among 696 low-income women between the ages of 18 and 31 who sought gynecological care between December, 2001 and May, 2003 in southeast Texas. Results: Overall, White women fit the classic profile of drug use initiation patterns, with those initiating tobacco and beer/wine at earlier ages being more likely to use illicit drugs. Conversely, African-American and Hispanic women initiated tobacco and beer/wine at much later ages than White women, but they were as likely to use illicit drugs. Conclusions: To be optimally effective, prevention efforts may need to be tailored to fit the race/ethnicity of the audience. Further studies are suggested to investigate specific risk factors related to substance use initiation by race/ethnicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-129
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Ethnicity
  • Health disparities
  • Substance use
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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