Substance Abuse in American Indian and Alaska Native Youth  

This paper will examine substance abuse in American Indian and Alaska Native youth. Although substance abuse is seen as an issue across the world, this paper is designed to specifically focus on American Indian and Alaska Native youth. Moreover, this paper will attempt to explore and briefly go into depth about the literature on substance abuse in American Indian and Alaska Native youth. Questions and topics this paper will entail and go into detail about are: prevalence of substance abuse in American Indian and Alaska Native youth; study conducted to show ways of prevention of substance abuse in these (American Indian and Alaska Native) races; the impact of substance use, culture, and trauma on American Indian adolescent; (suicide) leading/health factors of substance use; and high school student dropouts.

Substance abuse is a serious matter and issue in American Indian and Alaska Native Youth. The ultimate goal of my report, is to have a better understanding of substance abuse in particular to American Indian and Alaska Native’s and what makes them differ from other cultures in the United States.

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Many people go through an experience altering their states of consciousness in the form of sleep on a regular basis, while others use drugs and other substances that result in altered states of consciousness as well. (Spielman, Dumper, Jenkins, Lacombe, Lovett & Perlmutter, 2016). Substance abuse is the pattern of using alcohol or drugs as a way of coping with problems or depending on them to find comfort within yourself; effects of miss-using drugs include, but is not limited to psychological, physical, spiritual, metal damage, and may even lead to serious health concerns.

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SA (Substance Abuse) has immensely traumatic effects on the health and well-being of American Indian and Alaska Natives. Amongst other drugs including: tobacco, inhalants, alcohol, and marijuana, alcohol was not the primary substance being used (Hawkins; Elizabeth H.; Cummins, Lillian H.; Marlatt, G Alan, 2004).

Tobacco is one of the most used drugs amongst American Indian and Alaska Native adolescents. According to the data, between the ages of 12-17 years old, 27.5% of American Indian/Alaska Natives were current smokers, being the highest compared to other races that were below 16%: furthermore, high school senior had the highest rate (17.1%) of smoking half a pack or more of cigarettes a day. (Hawkins; Elizabeth H.; Cummins, Lillian H.; Marlatt, G Alan, 2004). Alcohol was used 71% throughout the years of those 7th-12th grade. All other forms of substance abuse, including inhalants (34%), and marijuana (50%), were seen being used the least (Hawkins; Elizabeth H.; Cummins, Lillian H.; Marlatt, G Alan, 2004). Accurate data based on substance abuse in these races can be a challenge to obtain, due to the fact these statistics may not be recent and collecting data cannot be done frequently because of certain barriers.

The Journal of Counseling Psychology (1988), conducted a first-hand experiment to test the effects of combined approaches, and evaluated the outcomes of “bicultural competence skills and social learning-based intervention”, in order to find ways of preventing substance abuse among American- Indian adolescents (Schinke, Steve P.; Orlandi, Mario A.; Botvin, Gilbert J.; Gilchrist, Lewayne D.; Trimble, Joseph E., 1988). The study entailed 137 American-Indian adolescents that volunteered themselves to become a participant. They were required to complete four categories of tests based on the topic; knowledge test: given to understand knowledge about the health and social effects of substance abuse; altitude scale: agreement with statements about substance use in American-Indian culture; interactive behavior test: responding to culture-relevant peer influences on such substances; and substance use reports: 35 multiple-choice questions, on personal use of substances, which included: beer, wine, and spirit; and marijuana, inhalant, amphetamine, barbiturate, cocaine, and nonmedical drugs they have used in the past 14 days. (Schinke, Steve P.; Orlandi, Mario A.; Botvin, Gilbert J.; Gilchrist, Lewayne D.; Trimble, Joseph E., 1988).

The procedure took place by dividing the participants into 10 groups, where they practiced communication, coping, and discrimination skills. The results showed improvement in American- Indian youths, and how they were able to be in a controlled condition, challenging their knowledge, attitudes, and interactive abilities, regarding tobacco, alcohol, and drug use (Schinke, Steve P.; Orlandi, Mario A.; Botvin, Gilbert J.; Gilchrist, Lewayne D.; Trimble, Joseph E., 1988). Although improvement was found by doing this study, only a small sample of American Indian and Alaska Native youth were studied; furthermore, basing an opinion on the whole community because one of experiment, may not be sufficient.

Adolescents are at a risk when it comes to substance abuse because they tend to fall into bad habits quickly. American Indian and Alaska Native youth are facing these challenges on a daily basis. Substance abuse can cause trauma and can take a negative toll on a person’s life. Culture identity plays a huge role for American Indian adolescents, who are receiving treatment for substance use and co-occurring disorders that may have lead them to abuse substances (Paul, Teressia M.; Lusk, Stephanie L.; Becton, Alicia Brown; Glade, Rachel, 2017). Research has shown incorporating cultural and trauma involving safety measures into treatment, can improve the environment for a person to not fall back into old habits again (Paul, Teressia M.; Lusk, Stephanie L.; Becton, Alicia Brown; Glade, Rachel, 2017).

Reasons as to many adolescents find comfort in such harmful substances can vary in many things, such as financial status, being emotionally or physically abused as a child, etc. In addition, poverty can cause high levels of stress, especially for AI (American Indian) adolescents, and can directly impact their mental health and well- being. (Paul, Teressia M.; Lusk, Stephanie L.; Becton, Alicia Brown; Glade, Rachel, 2017). These types of experiences can cause a person to feel trauma in their life and society can have a negative impact on them, leading them into behavior that is harmful to them and their health. Also, factors that go into harmful behaviors or substance abuse, can be because of physical/sexual abuse, neglect, the abrupt death of loved ones, or family disruption (Paul, Teressia M.; Lusk, Stephanie L.; Becton, Alicia Brown; Glade, Rachel, 2017). Understanding the issue of substance abuse in American Indian and Alaska Native youth, will help be a stepping stone into the road to recovery and hope to change the lives of many youth being affected by this addiction.

Suicide can be a leading factor of substance abuse, causing a person to become mentally distressed and wanting to harm themselves. The highest rate of suicide is seen primarily in the ages 15-24 in the United States, amongst American Indian and Alaska Native youth, who have the highest rate (Goodkind, Jessica R.; Ross-toldeo, Kimberly; John, Susie; Hall, Janie Lee; Ross, Lucille, 2010). For the past 20 years, suicide has been one of the two leading causes of death in AI and AN race (Goodkind, Jessica R.; Ross-toldeo, Kimberly; John, Susie; Hall, Janie Lee; Ross, Lucille, 2010). American Indian youth compared to non- American Indian youth have been found to abuse substances, which includes drinking heavily, and in combination to alcohol more greatly in a younger age, as oppose to other races who have not been exposed to them as quickly.

Factors that come along with drinking uncontrollably at a young age, can be dependence on alcohol and to have comorbid alcohol use and psychiatric disorders; furthermore, death rates have also gone to an all-time high and the primary cause of this is substance abuse (Goodkind, Jessica R.; Ross-toldeo, Kimberly; John, Susie; Hall, Janie Lee; Ross, Lucille, 2010). Excessive levels of violence and trauma vulnerability, along with traumatic loss has been found to be in connection with PTD and other forms of psychological distress in adolescents (Goodkind, Jessica R.; Ross-toldeo, Kimberly; John, Susie; Hall, Janie Lee; Ross, Lucille, 2010). Having gone through negative encounters like these as a child, may lead to greater consequences in the future for AI and NA youths.

Student dropouts are one of the commonly seen side effects of adolescents in high school, who are frequent users of drugs or alcohol. It has been observed for some time now, students who drop out as a group tend to have more serious social problems, including drug use, than their peers (Beauvais, Frederick; American Journal of Public Health, 1996). Adolescents who are users of alcohol and marijuana, seemed to the have the most dropout rates; it should be noted, as the years progressed, so did the rates of alcohol and marijuana users, being the most popular factors of high school dropouts (Beauvais, Frederick; American Journal of Public Health, 1996).

On the other hand, 8th, 10th, and 12th grade American Indian and Alaska youth, showed a tremendous increase in the use of substances, such as marijuana, whereas 7th-12th grader users were decreasing their use of this drug (Beauvais, Frederick; American Journal of Public Health, 1996). These youths have already developed bad habits and a strong attitude and behavior towards drug use, and it is highly unlikely that current drug prevention programs, will have the capability to change their minds and behaviors towards what they have been exposed to as a young adult (Beauvais, Frederick; American Journal of Public Health, 1996). Although AI and AN communities want to help children become sober, not many programs are being offered for adolescents to attend, and even if they are, most of them are un-willing to change because they feel so strongly to their poor habits.

As a result, the issues regarding substance abuse in American Indian and Alaska Native youth may not be the only factors contributing to the negative effects of drug and alcohol use, but are the primary bases of the risk factors adolescents face when their bad habits are not treated or taken control over. American Indian and Alaska Native youth have a serious drug problem, causing them to drop of school, become violent, etc. Although some factors can be the cause of substance abuse, finding ways to help cope with problems, such as trauma or physical abuse, can be a positive for these children. Studies provided in the literature review, shows increase each year, on the use of drugs and alcohol for youths, primarily in their teenage years attending high school. When bodies begin to physical depend on drugs, it becomes more difficult to re-cover because your mind begins to shut down and not function, unless drugs or alcohol are taken (Spielman, Dumper, Jenkins, Lacombe, Lovett & Perlmutter, 2016). Thus, effects on drug and alcohol use are more extreme, than one who is not a user of such substances can imagine. Finding ways to help American Indian and Alaska Native youth, will be beneficial not only to adolescents, but society as a whole.

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 Substance Abuse in American Indian and Alaska Native Youth  . (2022, Jan 07). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/substance-abuse-in-american-indian-and-alaska-native-youth-essay

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