Substance Abuse In Native Populations

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Alcoholism and drug abuse are things that I grew up within my family. My grandparents smoked, my mother and father smoked along with many other family members, many of which started before they hit Oregon’s previous smoking legal age of eighteen. I haven’t lived with my father in a long time, but what I remember from when he did live with me was that he was drunk.

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A lot. It wasn’t just him either. His parents drank a lot, and so did their parents along with many of my tribal family members. I didn’t grow up on the reservation, or with my tribal family, but I do know that many families are like mine in my tribal community. I don’t want you to read this and automatically assume that all Native Americans are alcoholics and they all use drugs and smoke, because that’s just not the case. Alcoholism is prevalent in all races and ethnicities, but is higher in White and Native American/Alaskan Native communities. With the current US population, 74.27 percent of white males and 65.10 percent of white females drink. Native Americans/Alaskan Natives aren’t too far behind though (Chartier and Caetano). 65.48 percent of Native males and 51.66 of Native females drink (Chartier and Caetano).

The percent of weekly and daily heavy drinkers is higher in Native men and women than it is in any other ethnicity or race. Native population is a very small percentage of the US population, it being 0.9 percent of the overall United States population. That is 2.9 million Alaskan Natives/American Natives. 32 percent of that population is under the age of 18 (National Congress of American Indians). The Native youth attribute a lot to the stable percentage of alcohol use in Native communities. Native youth have the highest rates of alcohol use disorders. In a school-based survey in 1993, 71 percent of Indian youth from grades 7 to 12 reported having ever used alcohol, and 55 percent reported having ever been drunk. This is a large percentage, especially since the consumption of alcohol in Native youth has stayed relatively the same since 1975 (Beauvais).

There are many factors that can lead to, or have lead to the numbers of alcoholism cases in Native populations. Some of these factors include; genetic influences, generational trauma, social and cultural influences, attitudes, poverty, cultural dissociation, oppression and mental illness (Bentley/Beauvais). There are many other factors that can contribute to alcoholism, not just the few that I listed. Some factors that I would really like to dive in to is the generational trauma and genetic influences when it comes to alcoholism in the Native community.

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