Literature presented in this review reflects research conducted during the past five years, 2007 - 2011, and addresses the phenomena of adolescent substance abuse in the African American demographic. Additionally, this literature review will address documented causes of adolescent substance abuse as presented by psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, government officials, urban-policy researchers, addiction counselors and human service professionals. Opposing views will be presented by various experts on the subject of substance abuse among the African American adolescent population. This review will further address current theories, studies and perceptions of the magnitude of the impact of substance abuse among the African American adolescent population, barriers, along with specific strategies for improvement and interventions tried. Suggested solutions and implications for further research will also be addressed. Studies Proving Existence of Problem
For about 10% of American adolescents, substance use escalates into the development of a substance use dependency (Substance Abuse Policy Research Program, 2010). According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), in 2010, 10.1 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 were current illicit drug users, with 7.4 percent current users of marijuana and in 2010, rates of current alcohol use were 3.1 percent among persons aged 12 or 13, 12.4 percent of persons aged 14 or 15, 24.6 percent of 16 or 17 year olds (SAMSHA, 2010). Researchers state, “A study of United States schools show that 15% of 8th graders have tried marijuana at least once, and increasing to 43% by 12th grade” (Johnston et al., 2008). Researchers discovered that both frequent alcohol and marijuana use significantly affected the adolescent mind. As drinking intensity increased, individuals demonstrated a significant decrease in attention and executive function which is involved with planning and selecting appropriate actions based on a selective stimulus (Thoma et al., 2010). According to Johnston et al., (as cited by Newman & Newman) “American high school age youth show a higher level of illicit drug use then those of any other industrialized nation. By their senior year in high school, almost half of American high school students have tried an illegal drug whether marijuana, amphetamines, heroin or other opiates, cocaine or barbiturates” (Newman & Newman, 2009, p. 379). Studies Attempting to Define the Problem
Substance abuse among African Americans has been linked to hopelessness, deterioration of communities, and self-destructive behavior associated with responses to oppressive conditions (Gilbert, Harvey, Belgrave, 2009). According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel IV TR, “Substance abuse is a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by one (or more) of the following, occurring within a 12-month period: Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, home, Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous, Recurrent substance-related legal problems, Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance” (Associated Psychologists & Therapists, 2007). Adolescents are often referred to treatment for substance abuse, but are not referred to a qualified mental health professional for appropriate diagnosis and treatment of any underlying cause for their drug and alcohol abuse. However, many teens have symptoms of a mood disorder that may in fact have led to self-medicating with street drugs and alcohol (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2009). In the past decades, drug dependence has been considered, depending on the different beliefs or ideological points of view: only a social problem,...