Alcohol Abuse in the Native American Population

It is unclear how exposure to these concepts may have influenced these men’s recovery narratives or their understanding of the change process. Through continued contact with Native role models, a reconstruction of Native identity takes place. So-say states that he entered formal alcohol treatment “at least seven times” but what were most effective were the traditional ceremonies and the “medicine” he learned from his Elders.

alcoholism on indian reservations statistics

Because the focus was on domestic violence and not alcohol, the men interviewed were in various stages of recovery. Some participants had been sober for several decades and some for just a few months or years. Alcohol, as a major thematic category, was further divided into subcategories that included (1) Alcohol and individual/tribal identity, (2) Retraditionalization, and (3) Recovery. The criterion for data to be included in the subcategory “alcohol and individual identity” were when they described themselves through their present or past relationship with alcohol.

Comorbidity of Alcohol Problems and Mental Disorders

The men were in various stages of recovery and sobriety, and data collection consisted of open-ended interviews and analysis utilizing principles and techniques from grounded theory and ethnographic content analysis. The participants’ narratives provided insight into the ways reconnecting with traditional cultural values (retraditionalization) helped them achieve sobriety. Alcohol was a means for affirming “Indian” identity and sobriety a means for reaffirming traditional tribal identity. Their narratives suggested the ways in which elements of traditional cultural values and practices facilitate healing in syncretic models and Nativized treatment. Understanding the ways in which specific Native cultural groups perceive their problems with drinking and sobriety can create more culturally congruent, culturally sensitive, and effective treatment approaches and inform future research. There is much work to be done to ameliorate the mental, physical, and social damages that the AIAN population experiences.

These concepts, it should be added, are equally important in understanding sociocultural influences in non-Indian societies (Jessor et al., 1968; Pittman and White, 1991). The rates of alcohol-related problems and alcohol-involved mortality from area to area and tribe to tribe generally conform to these patterns. A team approach to treating and monitoring this disease serves the best interests of the patient.

Changing Numbers, Changing Needs: American Indian Demography and Public Health.

In addition, as with MTF students, most variation in dependent variables such as drug use is within schools, not between schools.39 This is the only national sample of American Indian youths living on or near reservations of which we are aware, and every effort was made to ensure a representative sample of schools. Many researchers (Mail and McDonald 1980; May 1996) have reported a style of drinking frequently engaged in by both Indian youth and adults in which drinkers consume large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time and continue drinking until the supply is gone. This pattern—consuming five or more drinks in one session—is often called “binge drinking.” Furthermore, notable sharing of alcohol takes place among people drinking together. This pattern has been attributed to the early modeling of European colonists previously mentioned as well as to the effects of prohibition, which encouraged rapid drinking to avoid the detection and confiscation of alcohol. This style of drinking is only one of a wide range of styles practiced within Indian communities; aside from the research conducted by May (1995), however, little has been done to characterize the various patterns.

  • Building on the work of Ferguson (1968), May (1995) proposed that at least two patterns of alcohol abuse exist within Indian groups.
  • Also of great promise in the secondary arena is the institution of brief motivational therapeutic interventions for Indian populations.
  • Approximately 229 of these ethically culturally and linguistically diverse nations are located in Alaska and the rest are located in the other 33 states (National Congress of American Indians, n.d.).
  • The following sections describe some of those factors, including genetics, social and cultural influences, and personal attitudes toward alcohol.
  • Historical trauma describes the cumulative emotional and psychological wounding, over the lifespan and across generations, that occurs as the result of the massive group trauma experienced by AIAN peoples due to colonization and genocide incurred after European contact [17].
  • Unlike the rates of illicit drug use, which tend to fluctuate over time, alcohol use among Indian youth has remained stable since 1975.
  • Children with fathers who consume substances report that they do not want to be like their fathers or have similar adverse life trajectories and outcomes [67].

At the tertiary level of prevention, the problem condition—alcoholism or severe alcohol misuse—is already present in an individual (see Last, 1988). Indian alcohol abuse treatment programs are available to deal with the problems at this level. However, those programs have been criticized in the literature as being understaffed and insufficient to meet the needs (see Shore and Von Fumetti, 1972; Wilson and Shore, 1975; Shore and Kofoed, 1984; May, 1986). Indian treatment programs might be substantially improved by upgrading services and redesigning them to take advantage of the maturing-out process. This must be changed, as too many Indian females who do drink cause an unacceptably high level of alcohol-specific death. The literature (May, 1991) indicates a very strong need for tertiary care for women who produce children with fetal alcohol syndrome and other alcohol-related birth defects (Masis and May, 1991).

Native Americans and reservation inequality

Alaskan Natives and American Indians comprise a diverse population with a distinct variation in alcohol and substance abuse rates due to geographic location and tribal affiliation. Alcohol and substance abuse leads to increased morbidity and mortality rates, so prevention and early identification and treatment by healthcare professionals are imperative. This activity describes the etiology and epidemiology of substance and alcohol abuse in Alaskan Natives and American Indians and highlights the importance of treatment by the interprofessional healthcare team.

alcoholism on indian reservations statistics

There is also a myriad of testing options that can help suggest a history of drug or alcohol use. Brain-damaged parents and grandparents are trying to raise brain-damaged kids — and they’re often failing. But what many in Indian communities are less comfortable talking about is the damage caused when pregnant women drink alcohol. Family bonds and parental attachments were severed when AIANs were sent to boarding schools and these occurrences hindered AIANs’ ability to trust, communicate and build relationships with loved ones [69]. Attachment injuries were passed on generationally, complicating the process of successfully navigating interpersonal relationship challenges and potentially led to substance use [69].

Impacts of Alcohol and Alcohol Availability Across Generations

Understanding the gambling addiction and why AIANs engage in gambling can support future interventions to reduce gambling urges. There is also great need for longitudinal studies to confidently establish risk and protective factors, as many of the available studies are cross-sectional where the direction of causality is not clear. Future studies should examine the role of education among stats on alcoholism AIANs and the associations to the onset and development of SUD. There is a need to address and understand the traumatic experiences between AIAN older and younger generations and its impact to the rates of SUD problems. Lastly, there are probably other risk and protective factors that have yet to be identified to understand SUD problems in AIAN populations and deserve more attention.

This stereotype has perpetuated the image that all Indian people are afflicted with alcohol problems; even scientific inquiry, with its emphasis on problem definition, has not focused on the vast number of Indian people who maintain sober and productive lives (Beauvais in press). Furthermore, most studies of drinking among American Indians have focused on Indians living on reservations or on traditional Indian lands, even though this group accounts for only one-third of the American Indian population in the United States. There are promising culturally appropriate addiction treatment programs that incorporate AIAN healing practices and traditions in SUD services [106]. One example of a substance use treatment intervention specifically for AIANS is the Drum-Assisted Recovery Therapy for Native Americans (DARTNA) [106,107,108]. This drumming intervention has been shown to benefit AIANs in recovery, enhance cognition, and decrease physical ailments [106,107,108]. Another program that utilized culturally tailored telepsychiatry in a residential treatment setting was also effective in promoting treatment engagement and improving completion rates among Alaska Natives [109].

Longitudinal Follow-Up Studies Of Adult Indian Drinkers

Mental and physical health challenges are largely related to restricted availability of culturally sensitive care and accessibility of healthcare services. Family related risk factors can also be traced back to severed family relationships that occurred with forced separation and boarding school experiences. Family bonds, healthy parenting role models, consistent socialization, the provision of extended family’s love and affection, and cultural teachings were virtually eliminated with AIANs’ removal from their lands and social networks [17,54,100,101]. With forced removals, AIANs lost their social support and valuable resources, and had to start anew with very limited assets and means of sustenance [22,35].

alcoholism on indian reservations statistics

Through analysis and comparison, several new “in vivo” codes/themes emerged spontaneously from the data. In the United States today, the 2010 census indicated that 5.2 million people self-identified as American Indian or Alaska Native alone or combined with another race. As of this writing, there remain more than 566 recognized tribes (also referred to as nations, bands, pueblos, native villages, and communities) each with its own language, dialect, creation stories, cosmology, and spiritual traditions. Approximately 229 of these ethically culturally and linguistically diverse nations are located in Alaska and the rest are located in the other 33 states (National Congress of American Indians, n.d.). Meaning 
Early prevention and culturally sensitive interventions are needed for this population in addition to careful screening by medical staff for signs of early initiation and substance abuse and dependence.

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