Substance use disorders and co-morbidities among Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders.
BACKGROUND: Asian Americans (AAs) and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (NHs/PIs) are the fastest growing segments of the US population. However, their population sizes are small, and thus AAs and NHs/PIs are often aggregated into a single racial/ethnic group or omitted from research and health statistics. The groups' substance use disorders (SUDs) and treatment needs have been under-recognized. METHOD: We examined recent epidemiological data on the extent of alcohol and drug use disorders and the use of treatment services by AAs and NHs/PIs. RESULTS: NHs/PIs on average were less educated and had lower levels of household income than AAs. Considered as a single group, AAs and NHs/PIs showed a low prevalence of substance use and disorders. Analyses of survey data that compared AAs and NHs/PIs revealed higher prevalences of substance use (alcohol, drugs), depression and delinquency among NHs than among AAs. Among treatment-seeking patients in mental healthcare settings, NHs/PIs had higher prevalences of DSM-IV diagnoses than AAs (alcohol/drug, mood, adjustment, childhood-onset disruptive or impulse-control disorders), although co-morbidity was common in both groups. AAs and NHs/PIs with an SUD were unlikely to use treatment, especially treatment for alcohol problems, and treatment use tended to be related to involvement with the criminal justice system. CONCLUSIONS: Although available data are limited by small sample sizes of AAs and NHs/PIs, they demonstrate the need to separate AAs and NHs/PIs in health statistics and increase research into substance use and treatment needs for these fast-growing but understudied population groups.
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