Substance abuse has proven to be a large problem in America and especially within the Native American Indian Population. Starting as young as 8th grade, many Native teens report exposure to substances such as Alcohol, Opium, Marijuana, and other drugs. I was inspired to research this topic after reading several works from Sherman Alexie and There There by Tommy Orange.
Alcohol addiction is one of the most important themes throughout the stories. Substance abuse is detrimental to Indian communities and leads to an unbreakable cycle of addiction throughout generations. Www.continuumrecoverycenter.com asks the question, “Where does a young person find support when their peers and role models are using drugs and alcohol?”. These addictions lead to a series of other effects all contributing back to substance abuse.
This issue is not hard to find, and there are organizations working to help make a difference, “The objective of the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) is to reduce the incidence and prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) to a level at or below the general U.S. population”(Source 1). So far the problems facing Native Americans with substance use are still very high. It’s very important to understand why we see a higher rate of substance use in native American populations.
According to source 2, “~5x as many Native American teens use Cocaine and ~2x more smoke than the rest of America.” We see this disproportionately for many reasons. Source 3 goes in-depth about these reasons. “30% of Indian households are under the poverty line and many more barely scrape by, this creates high levels of stress and mental health issues. Source 3 points out that “many Native Communities lack doctors and as a result, there is a high amount of self-medication.”
These are just a few of many ways that the cycle of abuse is started. I think that it is very important that all Americans become educated on the history of Indigenous peoples to be able to understand the current state of modern Native peoples.
Source 1: “Indian Health Service (IHS).” Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program, www.ihs.gov/asap/.
Source 2: “Substance Use in American Indian Youth Is Worse than We Thought.” Nora’s Blog, NIDA, 11 Sept. 2014, archives.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2014/09/substance-use-in-american-indian-youth-worse-than-we-thought.
Source 3: Continuumrec, and Continuumrec. “5 Reasons Native Americans Have Higher Rates of Addiction.” Continuum Recovery, 3 Apr. 2020, www.continuumrecoverycenter.com/blog/5-reasons-native-americans-higher-rates-addiction/.