Alcohol and African American Teens: Disparities in Consequence and Consumption

Since colonial America, African Americans have continued to face obstacles and challenges of oppression and disenfranchisement. Despite these obstacles, the community has continued to thrive and grow. Many studies associate the African American community with negative associated statistics. This includes highest crime rates, highest dropout right, highest group facing poverty, highest group imprisoned in the judicial system. To add to this list, a recent study has found that African American youth are exposed to more alcoholic advertising than youth in general, (Huber, 2012).  For some, this is not surprising. Today, children are exposed to more adult themes. Hooks to popular rap and R&B songs expose children to alcoholic suggestions such as Snoop Dogg’s single, “Gin and Juice”.  Buses and billboards advertise tequila and late night television commercials are saturated with cocktails and beer commercials. Despite this over exposure to alcoholic advertisements, African American teens are less likely to abuse alcohol than other teens including Native Americans, Whites, and Hispanics, (Gordis, 2002). Though subjected to alcohol more than other ethnic groups, African American teens are not at high risk. This indicates that Black youth are not effected by alcohol advertisements or uncensored music. Therefore, African American teens and adolescent population is not threatened by alcohol use or abuse.

Although Black teens are less likely to abuse alcohol, the African American community continues to face disparities in other alcohol related statistics. Africans Americans have an increased likelihood of alcohol abuse in their 30’s. In addition, this community is more likely to participate in alcohol related violence, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and liver damage. Consequences of alcohol abuse are most prevalent in the African American community. This occurs despite the fact that Whites are more likely to abuse alcohol than any other race or ethnicity. The consequences widespread in this community suggest that African American’s are heavily affected by the abuse of alcohol consumption. Teens and adolescents are less likely to abuse the substance. However, as they get older, their likelihood of abuse increases. Alcohol abuse can negatively affect individuals, their family, friends, and the community. Consequently, although African American teens are less likely to abuse alcohol, the African American community faces severe consequences of alcohol abuse.

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported a finding concerning African American youth and alcohol advertising. Their research indicated that “young African Americans ages 12-20 see far more alcohol ads on television and in magazines then youth in general”, (Huber, 2012). Many African American themes have alcoholic suggestions. It is in the music, on television and films, and also the media. As a result many African American teens are subjected to images of alcohol.  One report indicates that as many as “64% of the most popular songs released from 2002 to 2005 referenced alcohol”, (Huber, 2012). Many of these songs teens listen to on the radio and download on their mp3 players. They sing lyrics to these songs, possibly taking in and identifying with the message. It doesn’t help that a similar study concluded that African American teens watch more television than other groups. The increase of Black teens consuming television and media outlets is related to the increase of teen exposure to alcoholic references. Black teens may be exposed to more alcoholic suggestions, but nevertheless, “African American teens are less likely to drink”, (Huber, 2012).

Various studies have been conducted on teens and alcohol abuse. These studies indicate that, “black adolescents drink alcohol less often and drink less heavily than white adolescents”, (Gaines, 2012). Other studies agree with these findings. They reveal that when it comes to alcohol consumption and abuse African Americans are not listed as the top three groups at risk. Teens most likely to consume and abuse alcohol are Whites 18%, Hispanics and Native Americans 15%, and Blacks 10%, (Chartier & Caetano, 2011). More importantly, Blacks were also least likely to begin the onset of drinking at an early age. In the research, “early onset” is considered 15 years old and younger. Of this group, less than 5% of Black teens and tweens start drinking at an early age when compared to Whites, Hispanics, and Native Americans. Hispanics ranged closed to Blacks in this area at 7%.

The statistics of African American adults conclude similar results. “Alcohol use in adults is more prevalent in Whites 59%, Native Americans 47%, Hispanics 46% and Blacks 43%”, (Chartier & Csaetano, 2011). Even when teens enter adulthood, when compared to other ethnic groups, African Americans fair better than other minorities. The only group that proved least likely to consume and abuse alcohol are Asian Americans; including teens, adults, and in all areas of alcohol related research studies. Over all, when analyzing statistics on alcohol consumption and the African American community, Blacks are less likely to abuse alcohol. This finding is substantial. In many areas of study the African American community is subject to analysis on various aspects of society. The results of these studies often find the community in a dire predicament. Although Black teens are not at risk of alcohol abuse, the community faces the most consequences as a result of abuse. One study may indicate there is little threat, however the true risk can be observed in the African Americans who do abuse alcohol.

“Negative effects of alcohol for ethnic minorities often occur over and above the contribution of alcohol use”, (Chartier & Caetano, 2011). Incidentally, this is not the only study that has concluded such findings. In many areas, African Americans are more likely to suffer a multitude of consequences of alcohol abuse. This includes liver disease, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, lack of treatment, and alcohol related violence. In general, Blacks are at low risk of alcohol abuse during adolescence, teens, and also the early-20’s. However, during their 30’s Blacks are at higher risk of alcohol abuse. As adults, Blacks are more likely to display behaviors under the influence of alcohol. “Alcohol related violence is highest in Blacks 30%, Hispanics 21% and Whites 18%”, (Chartier & Caetano, 2011). This fact must be noted considering the data revealed earlier, Blacks ranked 4 out of 5 ethnic groups likely to abuse alcohol. Yet Blacks are more likely to have alcohol related violence. Most often this includes domestic violence and spousal abuse. This is alarming. It goes further to validate the disparities apparent in the African American community compared to other minorities and ethnic groups. Furthermore, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was more common in Blacks as well as alcohol related cancer and their likelihood to receive treatment, (Chartier & Caetano, 2011).

Just ten years ago, a different study declared otherwise. In a study conducted by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in 2002 they found that, “African Americans have no sever medical consequences compared to Native Americans, Hispanics, and Whites”, (Gordis, 2002). In just a decade, the findings have changed significantly. This same study also found that the social consequences of alcohol consumption were also low. However, the economic down turn, loss of jobs, homes, and way of life may have influence this change. African Americans may have been affected by this, resulting in lowered social economic status and quality of life. This community continues to be most affected by poverty; with limited resources African American may not have access to what they need to reduce the effects of such consequences.  Either way, now it seems that “African Americans who drink seem to suffer more serious consequences; less access to public care and substance abuse treatment, live in poorer neighborhoods, and incarcerated more frequently”, (Huber, 2012).

Studies are not clear about the specific reason African Americans face heavy consequences of alcohol consumption when the amount of African Americans who abuse alcohol is low. Researchers can only speculate this reason. Most attribute this to socio-economic disparities and racial stigma. One study did suggest that, “individual and neighborhood-level economic disadvantage predicted a lower alcohol treatment completion for Blacks”, (Chartier & Caetano, 2011). In an earlier study, another researcher suggested that, “among some African Americans genetically determined variability in another alcohol-metabolizing enzyme… affect the degree of vulnerability of alcoholic cirrhosis and alcohol-related fetal damage”, (Gordis, 2002). It is possible that an ethnic group can be genetically preconditioned for one illness over another. However, other reasons behind this could also be cultural, environmental, or economic. Although research and studies vary, the end result is that African Americans continue to suffer heavily from consequences of alcohol consumption despite the fact that they are less likely to abuse alcohol.

Overall, alcohol abuse can be observed in teens around the country of all ethnicities. It effects teens, their family, community, and greater society. Teens who abuse alcohol are more likely to participate in at risk behavior. Examples of these behaviors include delinquency, sexual behavior, and increased substance abuse.  In today’s society, teens are associated with crime and high risk behaviors. During their cognitive development, teens are entering a different developmental stage where they are learning who they are. Teens are subject to peer pressure, bullying, and even suicide. When it comes to alcohol consumption, teens who abuse alcohol are at risk of other risky behaviors. Studies indicate that among teens, “alcohol consumption double and quadruples, respectively, the rate likelihood of sexual intercourse”, (Pergamit et. al, 2001). In addition, not only are teens having sex under the influence, they are also more likely to have unprotected sex. Teen alcohol consumption is related to teen marijuana abuse. The earlier that youth began consumption the likely hood they will use illicit drugs. Therefore, teen alcohol abuse is a strong precursor of other risk factors. It stresses the importance of educating teens on substance abuse and instilling in them norms and values that can be used later in life.

As it relates to the African American community and teen alcohol abuse, it is suggested that parents, norms, and culture play a significant role. “Among adolescent minorities studied nationwide, African Americans show the lowest prevalence of lifetime, annual, monthly, daily, and heavy drinking, as well as lowest frequency of being drunk”, (Gordis, 2002). Therefore, there must be something that this community is doing right to indicate these results. One study went as far as to say that poverty played a role in low adolescent alcohol abuse in this population. However, most indicate that social norms and religion is a leading factor. “These results suggests that personal norms about alcohols risk and acceptability are valuable as guides to behavior when there is broad acceptance of teen drinking in the society and use by peers is prevalent”, (Kosterman, et. al, 2000). Personal norms are an individual preference. If Black teens are less likely to abuse alcohol then this means that most Black teens also choose not to drink alcohol. They may not do this because they are aware of the consequences, do not like the taste, or simply do not want to do it. It also concludes that African American parents do not accept or condone their children drinking alcohol. In many homes children and teens have access to alcohol, yet they do not take advantage of this. Therefore, parents must instill in their children that alcohol is not a rule of conduct at their age. Lastly, because Black teens are less likely to drink, they are less likely to be influenced to drink by Black peers. Alcohol abuse can be “influenced by gender, religious belief, family traditions, personal expectations, and country of origin”, (Gordis, 2002)

Today, many people are affected by alcohol consumption. This is also observed in American teenagers. “Two-thirds of 9th graders report having tried alcohol at least once and one-fourth of all high school students say they drink heavily on occasion”, (Gains, 2012). Regardless, many teens across the country are drinking. The teens effected by alcohol abuse range, effecting White teens much more significantly than others. Despite the disparities among race, class, and economic status, teens and greater society is deeply affected by alcoholism. African Americans are less likely to abuse alcohol, but are most likely to suffer the consequences. This is very alarming, especially considering the other disparities apparent in this community. Disparities aside, the community maintained a low risk of teen alcohol abuse for over a decade. Scholars are unable pin point the relationship, yet some points are obviously clear. In American society, the Black community continues to be the most impoverished and imprisoned. Throughout this, African American teens have remained resilient against threats that are far greater in other communities across the nation. As society continues to understand dynamics that culture, religion, and norms play in the individual and their community, they must address the problems that society face. Without addressing these problems, more people will be at risk of substance abuse increasing negative social consequences and disparities prevalent throughout minority communities.





  1. Chartier, K., & Caetano, R. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, (2011). Ethnic and health disparities in alcohol research. Retrieved from National Institute of Health website:
  2. Gaines, T. (2012, July 24). Black teens drink less but more impulsive study says. ABC News. Retrieved from
  3. Gordis, E. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, (2002). Alcohol and minorities: An update. Retrieved from National Institute of Health website:
  4. Huber, B. (2012, September 27). Black youth exposed to more alcohol advertising, study finds. NBC News. Retrieved from
  5. Kosterman, R., Hawkin, D., Guo, J., Catalono, R., & Abbott, R. (2000). The dynamics of alcohol and marijuana initiation. American Journal of Public Health90(3), Retrieved from
  6. Pergamit, M., Hueng, L., & Lane, J. Office of the Assistant secretary for planning and evaluation, (2001). The long term impact of adolescent risky behavior and family environment. Retrieved from US Department of Human Services website:

About Russia Robinson

I use my writing talents, and skills I’ve learned through academics and experience, to benefit the greater good of society. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I give informative information on a variety of topics and issues that affect society. I also write creative works like children’s books, short stories, poems, and a novel in progress. I earned a BA in English creative writing and American literature from San Francisco State and graduate studies in Technical Writing at Kennesaw State University. Through my career in education and mental health I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher, working in education, social services, and mental health. Interested in my writing services? Feel free to contact me via email.
This entry was posted in Social Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s