Sexual orientation, gender, and racial differences in illicit drug use in a sample of US high school students

Michael E. Newcomb*, Michelle Birkett, Heather L. Corliss, Brian Mustanski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

64 Scopus citations


Objectives. We evaluated drug use differences between sexual minority and heterosexual students, including interactions with gender and race/ethnicity. Methods. We used 2005 and 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data pooled from Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Delaware; Maine; Massachusetts; New York City, New York; Rhode Island; and Vermont to evaluate drug use (marijuana, cocaine, inhalants, heroin, methamphetamine, andMDMA[Ecstasy]) using 2 aspects of sexual orientation (identity and sex of sexual partners). Results. Sexual minority students had higher prevalence of drug use than did heterosexuals on both sexual orientation dimensions, and differences were particularly pronounced among bisexual students on both dimensions. Differences between sexual minority and heterosexual male students in prevalence were generally larger than were differences between sexual minority and heterosexual female students. Racial minority students generally reported lower prevalence of drug use. However, the protective effect of African American race was less pronounced for some sexual minorities. Conclusions. Sexual minority youths are at increased risk for drug use. Intervention is needed at the institutional and individual levels to address these disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-310
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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