Aboriginal Youth Living Off-Reserve More Likely to Smoke, Use Drugs and Alcohol

Aboriginal Youth Living Off-Reserve More Likely to Smoke, Use Drugs and Alcohol

A new study has found that Aboriginal youth not living on reservations in Canada use tobacco, alcohol, and drugs significantly more than non-Aboriginal youth, and have more health risks. Most Aboriginals in Canada live off-reserve, and those age 15 and older are more likely than non-Aboriginals to have chronic health conditions, to drink heavily, and to use tobacco and marijuana.

Researchers looked at the smoking habits, use of other tobacco products, alcohol, and drugs (as well as exposure to second-hand smoke) in 2,620 Aboriginal youth who lived off-reserve and 26,223 non-Aboriginal youth. All the participants were in grades 9-12 and had participated in the 2008-2009 Youth Smoking Survey.

The study found that 24.9 percent of the Aboriginal participants were regular smokers, 2.6 percent were former smokers, and 72.4 percent were non-smokers. Of the non-Aboriginal participants, 10.4 percent were current smokers, 1.5 percent were former smokers, and 88 percent were non-smokers. Aboriginal youth were more likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke than non-Aboriginal youths.

The majority of the respondents (88.5 percent of Aboriginal and 84.2 percent of non-Aboriginal youth) said they had tried alcohol, and the average age at which they first tried alcohol was significantly lower among Aboriginal youth. Of those who had tried alcohol, 91.9 percent of Aboriginal youth had engaged in binge drinking, compared to 85.2 percent of non-Aboriginals. Aboriginal youth were also more likely than non-Aboriginal youth to use marijuana (62 percent compared to 41 percent) and other illicit drugs (34.8 percent compared to 20.6 percent).

The study also found that Aboriginal females had higher rates of using tobacco, marijuana, and other illicit drugs than male Aboriginals.

Dr. Tara Elton-Marshall of the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, University of Waterloo, said that the high prevalence of smoking and substance abuse among Aboriginal youth living off-reserve underscores the need for prevention programs that target Aboriginal youth.

The researchers noted that most of the Aboriginal youth who currently smoke (especially females) said they had tried to quit at least once. This suggests that Aboriginal youth are interested in quitting but may require additional support to stop smoking.

The researchers concluded that their study highlights the need for culturally appropriate prevention and treatment methods and programs for Aboriginal youths living off-reserve.

Source: Medical News Today, Aboriginal Youth Use Tobacco, Illicit Drugs and Alcohol More Than Non-Aboriginal Youth, May 9, 2011

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