Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 90, Issue 6, pp 1112-1129

First online:

The Relationship between Perceived Discrimination and Psychotherapeutic and Illicit Drug Misuse in Chicago, IL, USA

  • Haslyn HunteAffiliated withDepartment of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Public Health, Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, West Virginia UniversityCenter for Poverty and Health Inequities, Purdue University Email author 
  • , Tracy FinlaysonAffiliated withDivision of Health Management and Policy, Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University

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Based on several stress-coping frameworks, recent studies have suggested that perceived experiences of discrimination, a psychosocial stressor, may be associated with various risky health behaviors. The 2001 Chicago Community Adult Health Study (n = 3,101), a face-to-face representative probability sample of adults in Chicago, IL, USA, was used to examine the relationship among lifetime everyday discrimination, major discrimination, and the use of illicit and psychotherapeutic drugs for nonmedical reasons. We used negative binomial logistic and multinomial regression analyses controlling for potential confounders. Approximately 17 % of the respondents reported using one or more illicit drugs and/or misusing one or more psychotherapeutic drug. Adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics, other stressors and various personality-related characteristics, results from negative binomial regression suggest that respondents who experienced moderate to high levels of everyday discrimination misused on average 1.5 different kinds of drugs more than respondents that experienced relatively low levels of everyday discrimination (p < 0.05). Similarly, an increase in one lifetime major discrimination event was associated with an increase of misusing 1.3 different drugs on average regardless of experiences of everyday discrimination (p < 0.001). When examining the types of drugs misused, results from multinomial logistic regression suggest that everyday discrimination was only associated with illicit drug use alone; however, lifetime major discrimination was associated with increased odds of using any illicit and both illicit/psychotherapeutic drugs. Mental health and substance use clinical providers should be aware of these potential relationships and consider addressing the harmful effects of perceived discrimination, in all patients not only among racial/ethnic minority patients.


Social determinants of health Stress Coping behavior Discrimination Drug misuse