Alcohol Abuse in Native Communities

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The evidence is clear: alcohol abuse statistics and facts demonstrate the fact that alcohol abuse in native communities is a serious problem that affects numerous Native Hawaiian and Native Americans, including their youth.

The damaging and fatal effects of alcoholism and alcohol abuse experienced by native Americans need to be studied and significantly reduced and alternative healthy options and lifestyles need to be developed sooner rather than later if these native communities are to prosper.

Alcohol Abuse and Societal Problems Among the Alaska Natives

In the 1950's, significant numbers of Alaska Natives were introduced to alcohol, which quickly became an incapacitating and fatal reality.

By the early 1970's, for instance, alcoholism had become a leading cause of death among Alaska Natives.

The Alaska Native suicide rate, which was not significantly different from the national averages throughout the 1950's, began to rise dramatically in the 1970's.

Other indicators of severe behavioral health and societal breakdown began to significantly increase during the 1960's and 1970's.

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Examples of this societal downturn include the following: avoidable accidents, murder, assault, psychological depression, and sex crimes (including sex crimes against children).

Similar to Native suicides, these anti-social and crippling community behaviors were, for the most part, directly related to alcohol abuse.

Furthermore, these negative societal patterns were clearly observable throughout the 1980's.

Substance Abuse Among Alaska Natives

Today, substance abuse is the number one debilitating force among Alaska Natives.

More precisely, the suicide rate for Alaska Natives is four times more than the national average and almost 80% of all Alaska Native deaths are related to alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

Additionally, the rate of fetal alcohol syndrome among Alaska Natives is the highest for any American population researched to date (4.2 per 1,000 live births).

It is clear that drug and alcohol abuse will continue to destroy the lives of numerous Alaska Natives unless these Natives can be shown how to and encouraged to focus on and actively choose more positive options to their destructive behavioral patterns and lifestyles.

Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse in The Village of Minto

A good example of an Alaskan Native community that is facing the destructive effects of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence is the village of Minto.

Minto has an unemployment rate of 85-90% and is short on resources and opportunities needed to keep residents occupied doing healthy, more positive activities.

According to alcoholism and alcohol abuse statistics, alcohol consumption and abuse has become one of the principal village activities and has had a damaging and a destructive effect on the community as demonstrated by the excessively high rates of alcohol-related fatalities (e.g., suicides, cold weather exposure, and via boat and care accidents) and the higher-than-usual rate of fetal alcohol syndrome.

In spite of the fact that Minto has a "dry" status, meaning that the sale and the importation of alcohol is illegal, the youth of the Minto community clearly look as if they are the greatest risk to the subtle, but destructive appeal of alcohol.

Quite understandably, the Minto community leaders are concerned and on their guard about the negative impact that alcohol abuse and alcoholism will have on the future of their culture, their people, and their homeland.

Alcohol and Substance Abuse in the Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee people settled in Oklahoma more than 150 years ago after the federal government required them to leave their native home in North Carolina.

Currently, more than 65,000 Cherokee people reside in the rural areas and towns in northeastern Oklahoma.

Due to the fact that more than one-third of the population is 17 years old or younger, this group of Cherokee people is considered a young population.

The Cherokee youth, compared with similarly aged white youth, however, are experiencing higher rates of cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco abuse.

Moreover, addiction and alcohol abuse statistics for Native American adults have demonstrated that substance abuse is associated with serious physical injury, police calls, and child neglect and abuse.

For example, the Tribal Child Protective Services of the Cherokee Nation recently reported that 39% of their total case load points to substance abuse as a major contributing factor associated with the aforementioned community problems.

Data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse in 1989 showed that approximately 50% of all American adolescents have used alcohol compared with approximately 80% for American Indian and Alaskan Native youth.

The upshot of this is that early experimentation with alcohol and drugs places Native youth, in particular, at risk for serious health, relationship, and community problems down the road.

Alcohol Abuse and Native Indians

The following represents some of the key alcohol abuse statistics and facts regarding alcohol abuse by Native Indians.

  • Alcohol and drug abuse are community and family problems among Indians. This abuse harms all tribal members, including the abuser and his/her family, friends, and associates.

  • The negative consequences of alcohol and substance abuse in Indian communities are mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional.

  • In Indian communities, alcoholism is a multi-generational phenomenon. Currently, alcohol dependence is negatively affecting three or four generations and will affect most certainly affect future generations.

  • Alcoholism in Indian communities is the tip of an iceberg. That is, alcohol dependence sits on top of a huge mass of other underlying problems.

  • Alcohol dependency frequently co-exists in Indian communities with other problems such as stress-related acting out, cultural shame, depression, and self-hate.

Alcohol Abuse in Native Communities: Conclusion

According to alcoholism and alcohol abuse statistics, alcohol abuse in native communities is a serious problem.

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Indeed, numerous Native Hawaiian and Native Americans, including their youth, have an unfortunate history of suffering from alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.

The destructive and fatal consequences of alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse experienced by native Americans need to be studied and significantly reduced and alternative healthy options and lifestyles need to be developed sooner rather than later if these native communities are to prosper.

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