Alcoholism and destructive drinking patterns are serious social problems in many Native American reservations and urban communities. Native Americans have higher rates of alcohol use, frequency of use, destructive drinking patterns, and increased rates of fetal alcohol syndrome compared with other ethnic groups (Beauvais, 1998; Hisnamick, 1992; May, 1994; Wallace et al., 2003). Compared with the majority population, Native Americans experience four times as much alcohol-related mortality, three times as much alcohol-related illness, and increased rates of alcohol-related accidental deaths, suicides, and homicides (Griffith, 1996).

The study among urban and rural Lumbee Indians (Beltrane and McQueen, 1979) makes several important points. First, urban Lumbees drink more than rural Lumbees and have higher rates of problem drinking. Second, traditional social norms among the rural North Carolina Lumbees result in more abstinence and a highly age-specific pattern similar to that found in other reservation Indian studies. Third, occupational considerations (prestige and satisfaction) are much more highly related to Indian drinking in the urban area (Baltimore) than among the rural sample. Finally, heavy drinking is most common among the lower social strata of the urban area residents. Such findings may be consistent with those for other Indians in urban areas, but this topic awaits further study.

Explanations of Tribal Variations in Rates

These indigenous approaches are based on indigenous centered priorities that include AIANs to develop frameworks based on community values and perspective. Programs developed by the AIAN people for the AIAN community allow for methodologies that fit AIAN ideologies rather than being confined to Westernized frameworks. A cross-sectional survey found that AIAN adult males drink nearly three times as much alcohol as adult females stats on alcoholism [30]. Researchers assessed frequency and amount of alcohol consumed in open response format and findings indicated that males drank the equivalent of 1–2 glasses of wine once per week whereas females drank 1–2 glasses of wine once or twice per month [30]. One potential risk factor for this disparity is that historical and cultural norms have been more permissive of men drinking larger quantities of alcohol [30].

alcoholism on indian reservations statistics

Furthermore, there is very little literature currently available on alcohol-specific causes of death among Indians. Epidemiologic or biomedical analyses of Indian deaths from liver cirrhosis or other alcohol-specific causes are badly needed. For therapists and practitioners, cultural competence and sensitivity is essential for effective treatment and to avoid harm. Mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence treatments were often negative experiences for these men, and this study suggests that there are traditional values and healing opportunities within the traditional tribal culture that may mediate and prevent destructive drinking patterns. Research and practice that builds on the inherent strengths of Native cultural values are both culturally sensitive and empowering to tribal people who have been marginalized and disenfranchised. Community ties tend to be much stronger in collective societies such as those of Native Americans than in individualistic societies such as the general U.S. society (Duran & Duran, 1995; Jilek, 1994; LaFromboise, Trimble et al., 1990).

Treatment Considerations

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]. Attendees of such programs have shown higher levels of spiritual connectedness and significant reductions in depression and anxiety [106]. These programs have also provided clients opportunities to reconnect with their culture and their community [110].

alcoholism on indian reservations statistics

In such cases, tertiary care delivered in sheltered environments (e.g., half-way houses) could prove to be very important, yet few such programs exist. There is much work to be done to ameliorate the mental, physical, and social damages that the AIAN population experiences. The path to move forward must include interventions that capitalize on AIANs’ strengths and resilience. These interventions and initiatives must be done in a culturally respectful and sensitive manner.

Tribal differences

She and DeCory work seven days a week, mentoring children and providing mental health outreach in the absence of specialist facilities in the reservation’s only hospital. Janis, 56, recently bought a Taser as the intensity of their late-night callouts has grown. Statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health help identify the extent of substance use and mental illness among different subgroups, including American Indian and Alaska Native populations. When you get a lot of alcohol involved there—people seem, from what I’ve seen, you know, from the last 30 or 40 years, is they forget how to be human beings. They all say, “I want to be a [GreatLakes tribal person]” then you stop drinking ‘cause that has nothing to do with being Indian.

Antone says there’s very little support in the Red Lake community for her kids’ special needs. Among Alaskan Natives and American Indians who entered an alcohol detoxification treatment facility, seventy-five percent of individuals had successful completion. Alaskan Natives and American Indians who exhibited an older age of onset with first alcohol consumption and longer length of stay in the treatment facility were more likely to achieve successful detoxification.