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Hispanic teens more likely to try meth

CHICAGO- The nation's drug czar says Hispanic teens are almost twice as likely to have tried methamphetamines than white or black teenagers.

John Walters, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, was in Chicago to release a new series of anti-meth advertisements in Spanish and English. Some of the ads emphasize the physical damage meth use can cause, such as rotting teeth and skin lesions.

Walters spoke in downtown Chicago at Prevention First, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of substance abuse and related issues.

The campaign follows the release of a new Partnership research study revealing a troubling vulnerability among Hispanic teens when it comes to meth use. Historically, rates of illicit drug use in the Hispanic population are lower than those in White or Black populations. Data on methamphetamine, however, mark a concerning departure from that trend, with Hispanic meth use on par with that of White populations, and far higher than Black or Asian populations.

According to the 2005 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study:

- Hispanic teens are almost twice as likely to have tried meth than White or Black teens. 12.8 percent of Hispanic teens grades 7-12 reported lifetime trial of meth in 2005 versus 7.1 percent of White and 6.2 percent of Black teens.

- 1 in 3 Hispanic teens grades 7-12 reports having close friends who use meth, versus 1 in 5 among White or Black teens

- Only 49 percent of Hispanic teens—less than half—see "great risk" in trying meth once or twice.

Additionally, qualitative research among Hispanic parents revealed a low awareness of meth's prevalence and its dangers, along with a lower than average frequency of talking to their kids about drugs. Just 35 percent of Hispanic parents reported talking to their kids about drugs four or more times per year, compared with about 50 percent for Black or White parents.

"These numbers are a warning sign for Latino parents and families, and the message is clear: now is the time to learn about the risks of meth and share that information with your children," said Mike Townsend, executive vice president, Partnership for a Drug-Free America. "We cannot allow methamphetamine to become a more destructive threat to Latino families, or to become a mainstream drug for teens, and the best way to prevent that is to help adults, family influencers and teens understand how meth can destroy their health and their future."

Methamphetamine can come in the form of a crystal-like powder or rocklike chunks. It is an addictive stimulant that can be smoked, snorted, injected or taken orally.

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