Yale University

Empowering Black Girls May Help to Reduce Drug Use, YSPH Study Finds

Black girls make up a relatively small portion of the overall drug-using population. But their health consequences are more severe than most: Reproductive issues, fertility issues, sexually transmitted infections and trauma exposure are all obstacles they face at statistically higher rates compared to their peers.

And when confronted with overlapping issues such as oppression and powerlessness, Black girls may engage in more risk taking and addictive behaviors like drug use, researchers have found - all while existing mentoring programs and prevention strategies are rarely tailored to their experiences.

A new study led by the Yale School of Public Health suggests that empowering Black girls to feel in control of their social environment and proud of their identity may help to reduce these trends.

"I wanted to change the narrative of Black girls in prevention research by highlighting protective factors such as sociopolitical control which consists of leadership competency and policy control, ethnic identity and social support and how these concepts have a great impact on preventing risky behaviors such as drug use," said Ijeoma Opara, assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health and the study's lead author. "Drug-use prevention research has overwhelmingly focused on the etiology of drug use—which is valid, however, we miss opportunities if we are not learning from youth that are not engaging in drug misuse, especially if they are exposed to the same risk factors that have been known to predict drug use."

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Published: Thursday, September 30, 2021