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About Rhode Island

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the country with a population of 1,095,610 persons in 2021 (U.S. Census). Of this figure, 51.3% were women, while 48.7% were men, according to the US Census Bureau, 2021. The largest age group in this population was 20 to 29 years old, which made up 14.3% of the population. Nonetheless, the survey data showed the 18 years and over has the highest population with 80%. Youth and young adults are easily exposed to drugs and alcohol use, violence and crimes, than other groups (Lindsey et al., 2004). Youth living in depressed and disadvantage communities, especially from low income minority ethnic groups are easily exp osed to drug and alcohol use, as well as violent behavior, due to increased rate of depression, economic hardship and unemployment.

Rhode Island has a proportionate representation of all cultural groups in the country. According to the most recent data on ethnic populations in Rhode Island, the minority population in the state has been increasing substantially. RI minority groups are from diverse backgrounds and cultures, such as Black or African American, Asian, Native Hawaiian, American Indian and Alaska Native, two or more races, etc. While the White population was still dominant in RI, with 83.6% in 2021, Black or African American, was 8.5%; American Indian, 1.1%; Asian, 3.7%; Hispanic, 16.3%. Hispanic or Latino group has remained the fastest growing minority group in the U.S., including Rhode Island.

When the economy is unpredictable and the rate of unemployment is high, families struggle to make ends meet. This increases the stress of living in a disadvantaged community, thereby giving room for more alcohol and drug use among people who are otherwise idle, unengaged and frustrated. In 2020, of the 16 years and over who were in the civilian labor force, 64.5% were estimated to be employed, while 3.4% were unemployed. Those not in the labor force in 2022, either due to old age, below working age, or disability was 35.4%. A 2012 study on drug use and health reported that one out of six unemployed person abused drugs and alcohol (Kurtz, 2013). As a result of this strong correlation between being employed and drug or alcohol abuse, Rhode Island has been a state in the nation that has witnessed an upsurge in the abuse of drugs and alcohol.

The level of educational attainment also determines an individual’s susceptibility to drugs and/or alcohol use and abuse. In 2020, 89.2% of 25 years old and over in Rhode Island had High school diploma or equivalent; compared to Bachelor’s degree at 35%; Graduate or Professional degree, 11%. Although it is not conclusive that educational level has impact on drugs or alcohol abuse of adult population, there is evidence to suggest that low levels of education combined with socio-environmental factors form the risk factors for alcohol and drugs abuse in teenage years. In a study of 12th grade students’ work intensity, O’Malley et al. (2011) found that High School students in the workforce during school years were involved in behavioral problems, including the use of substances, truancy, poor grades in school, and school dropouts.


Rhode Island Demographic Statistics (2021). QuickFacts, Retrieved from

Rhode Island Department of Health (2016). Drugs Overdose Deaths. Retrieved from