The Need for Native American Drug Rehab

Jump to:

1. Is Substance Abuse a Big Problem Among Native Americans?
2. Why the Higher Drug Addiction Rates for Native Americans?
3. Are Some Drugs Acceptable for Spiritual Ceremonies?
4. The Shortage of Native American Rehab Programs
5. Benefits of Substance Abuse Treatment
6. Family Members Play a Key Role
7. The Cost of Rehab

On July 29, 2010, President Obama signed into law The Tribal Law and Order Act. Created in part to deal with significantly higher than average rates of violence among the Native American and Alaska Native populations in the United States, the Act also repurposes the Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (IASA). When it comes to prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug abuse among Native Americans and Alaska Natives, the course to treatment can be much harder and less effective unless it specifically addresses the reasons for the higher rates of abuse and addiction.

Is Substance Abuse Really a Bigger Problem Among Native American Populations?

Native American Drug AddictionsAccording to a report issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in November 2011, overdoses of prescription drugs containing opiates, such as Vicodin or hydrocodone, accounted for more than 14,000 deaths in 2008. When taking the ethnic makeup of the victims of these tragic events into consideration, the rates of death for Native Americans were three times higher than that of other ethnic groups.

Where alcohol abuse is concerned, a study conducted at Boise State University found a few interesting facts to be true:

  • Native American youth are twice as likely to abuse alcohol than any other demographic.
  • Native American youth have an average age of first use of alcohol a full year before their non-Native American counterparts.
  • In the 2008 Monitoring the Future Survey, among Native Americans, 65 percent of 8th graders, 84 percent of 10th graders, and 83 percent of 12th graders used alcohol regularly.
  • Native American youth are more likely to begin abusing drugs and alcohol earlier, and more likely to drop out of school as a result.

The need for top drug rehabs for the Native American population is clear.

Why the Higher Drug Addiction Rates for Native Americans?

The reasons that any person may turn to drugs or alcohol are many and varied. Likewise, the reasons that someone belonging to the Native American population might turn to drugs or alcohol are similar, but intensified based upon certain cultural conditions, according to a 2004 study, Preventing Substance Abuse in American Indian and Alaska Native Youth released by the American Psychological Association. Some of these reasons are:

Why Native Americans are at Risk for Addiction
  • Excessive poverty
  • High unemployment rates
  • Increased risk of psychological problems due to cultural disruption
  • High rates of disease
  • Generational trauma
  • Excessive amounts of free time which can equal boredom

Substance abuse can become generational not only by example, but also by heredity. In 2008, the National Institute on Drug Abuse announced that their researchers had found 89 genes that can indicate whether an individual has a greater chance of suffering from the disease of addiction. The problems of drug and alcohol abuse among the Native American population can easily be compounded by the prevalence of abuse and the physical and cultural influences surrounding their community.

In recent years, some Native American communities have sought to reduce unemployment and increase the quality of life for those living in and around reservations by opening casinos. While this is a profitable venture and proves to solve one set of problems, historically casinos and gambling have increased the presence of illicit drugs and alcohol abuse, criminal activity and other problems. In addition to the increase in substance abuse, there is also the issue of gambling addiction to consider. According to the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, 3.7 percent of the citizens of California have a problem as it relates to gambling.

peyote like cactusAre Some Drugs Acceptable for Spiritual Ceremonies?

Peyote is a hallucinogenic drug harvested from a cactus. It is used, generally once per month by certain members of the Navajo nation for religious purposes. A study released by McLean Hospital — the largest psychiatric facility of Harvard Medical School — stated that this practice was not unhealthy for the participants.

Before one confuses religious and spiritual use of any drug with the negative effects of illicit drug addiction, it is important to understand a few qualifications of McLean Hospital’s findings:

  • Tribal leaders and elders who routinely participate in the use of Peyote are more connected with their communities and purpose; therefore, they are less likely to suffer from psychological issues.
  • The determination that Peyote does not psychologically harm a specific individual with moderate use does not translate to any other hallucinogen, such as LSD.
  • The study only focused on those individuals who used Peyote under legal, bona-fide circumstances and did not measure the negative effects of those who use Peyote for non-religious purposes.

There are many drugs that are legally consumed in the United States each year. Prescription pain medications are prescribed for short-term pain management and the patients in these circumstances may never develop a dependence upon the drug in question. On the other side of the issue, however, is the fact that many individuals abuse prescription drugs, legal and illicit, only to develop the disease of addiction. Use of a legal substance for religious purposes should be reserved for those who have been adequately trained in the lifestyle and customs associated with the practice.

The Shortage of Native American Rehab Programs

There are two distinct themes running through any discussion of substance abuse among the Native American population – higher rates of abuse and higher instances of poverty. These two factors lend themselves to a significant problem in the tribal community’s ability to provide adequate healthcare for those afflicted with addiction. According to Office of Civil Rights Evaluation, the Indian Health Services are grossly underfunded.

Because of the disproportionate poverty in many tribal communities, resources are simply not available to meet the recovery needs of this deserving population. When added to the generational aspect of abuse, many Native Americans are unable to see the need for treatment centers in their area. This may contribute to a vicious cycle of abuse.

It is specifically because of the cultural and economic factors associated with Native American substance abuse that there is a critical need for rehabs in these societies. A rehab that serves the Native American population needs to incorporate the specific psychological modalities involved with substance abuse and the reasons it occurs so frequently in their community. The treatment programs should focus more attention on the spiritual healing and holistic approaches that are important to many Native Americans, as well.

Benefits of Substance Abuse Treatment

When a Native American individual suffering from addiction seeks treatment, he or she can expect many benefits over the short and long term. The National Institute for Drug Abuse reports that individuals who abstain from the use of drugs over the long term will have fewer instances of unemployment as well as criminal activity — both problems in the Native American population.

The best drug and alcohol treatment has many levels above and beyond just getting an individual to stop using drugs. In addition to helping an addict stop the cycle of abuse in his own life, treatment can provide the tools a recovering addict needs to succeed in every aspect of his future. By refocusing attention on the family relationship and reeducating the recovering addict concerning opportunities for emotional, psychological and spiritual growth, addiction treatment can open many doors the addict previously considered locked.

Executive Drug Treatment at Alta Mira

Family Members Play a Key Role

When an individual suffers from drug addiction, he or she may not understand the ramifications of their behavior. Addiction is a disease, not a lifestyle; however, this disease can cause a person to lose focus of what is truly important in his or her life. Families can create a situation that brings this to the addict’s attention, effectively giving the person the reason needed to seek treatment.

An intervention is a process where family members, friends and treatment professionals get together to confront the drug addict or alcoholic with the truth of their disease. If the person suffering from addiction is made to understand that, while they may have very little control over their addiction, they do have the ability to choose treatment, he or she will enter a top treatment facility immediately.

The Cost of Rehab

There are several forms of drug and alcohol treatment with a variety of costs involved. The best inpatient facilities will cost more than outpatient services while luxury residential programs will cost still more. It is possible to find options to pay for drug treatment, however, if you take into consideration the life-saving investment one is making.

For more information on tailored treatment programs, contact us at Alta Mira today. We are on hand and ready to answer any questions you have about addiction and the recovery process.