Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: Substance Use by Gender and Race Among Teenage Athletes (Sports Med Res)


Monday, December 12, 2016

Substance Use by Gender and Race Among Teenage Athletes

Racial Disparities in Substance Use by Sport Participation Among High School Students

Parent MC, Bradstreet TC, Piper M, Brace T, & Parkman TJJournal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2016, 77(6):980-85. doi:10.15288/jsad.2016.77.980

Take Home Message:  While general substance use patterns are seen in adolescent athletes, some gender and racial/ethnic groups are at more risk than others.  Prevention and educational programs should be designed with this in mind.

A majority of adolescents report at least occasional substance use. Use of alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and other substances is associated with higher risk of mental, physical and behavioral problems. Sport participation may be a protective factor for substance use; however, some studies have shown increased use of certain substances. Therefore, the authors of this study used data from 6,721 males and 6,761 females from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Study to explore the relationship between team sport participation and substance use across racial/ethnic disparities among U.S. adolescents. Participants were asked about their team sport participation, use of smoked tobacco, chew/dip, alcohol, marijuana, steroids, and diet pills in the past 30 days, and lifetime use of cocaine, inhalants, methamphetamine, and prescription drugs. Alcohol use was the most prevalent for all groups, followed by marijuana, prescription drugs, and either smoking or chewing tobacco use. Asian, White, and Multiracial non-Hispanic male athletes were more likely to use steroids. Multiracial Hispanic male athletes were 2.59 and 2.14 times more likely to use diet pills and chew/dip, respectively. Black or African American males were 2.53 times more likely to use cocaine while Asian males were 81.87 times more likely to use methamphetamines. Female athletes were 1.67 times less likely to use smoked tobacco and 1.5 less likely to use cocaine. White female athletes were less likely to use smoked tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and prescription drugs. Black or African American females were 2.53 times more likely to use steroids while Hispanic/Latino females were 2.26 times more likely to use chew/dip. Multiracial non-Hispanic female athletes were over 5 times more likely to use diet pills and over 12 times more likely to use methamphetamines.

While the authors observed some general patterns in substance use in adolescents, clinicians should consider patterns observed in gender and racial/ethnic groups when designing prevention and educational programs. If you are working with adolescents of specific racial/ethnic groups, programming should be tailored to those groups. However, it is important to note that this study does not have the ability to determine causality, and the authors did not consider competition level, dedication to sport, and excluded individual sports and non-traditional students. The authors of the study discussed reasons why patterns may be seen in different groups based upon previous research. A previous post on Sport Med Res has discussed the use of supplements and performance enhancing drugs in children as young as 11 years old. Clinicians may consider starting prevention programs at an earlier age. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association recommends a “food-first” philosophy to support health and performance. To help mitigate the use of performance enhancement drugs, clinicians may consider educating adolescents on how diet and nutrition can be used to enhance performance and the negative effects of substance use on performance.

Questions for Discussion: How do you address substance use in your setting?  Do you think tailoring discussions of substance use by race/ethnicity would be useful?  Could education on nutrition and performance help mitigate substance use issues?

Written by:  Jessica Pope
Reviewed by: Jane McDevitt 

Related Posts

Parent, M., Bradstreet, T., Piper, M., Brace, T., & Parkman, T. (2016). Racial Disparities in Substance Use by Sport Participation Among High School Students Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 77 (6), 980-985 DOI: 10.15288/jsad.2016.77.980


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