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

Parent MC, Bradstreet TC, Piper M,
Brace T, & Parkman TJ
of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
. 2016, 77(6):980-85.

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.

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.

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 


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