Native Americans and Alcohol Essay

Native Americans and Alcohol Essay

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Native Americans as a whole have been typecast as drunks ever since the coming of the white man’s “fire water.” TS Naimi, MD et al. reports that alcohol is responsible for 11.7% of all American Indian and Alaska Native deaths, compared to 3.3% for the U.S. general population (939). This disturbing discrepancy reinforces the age old notion of the “drunk Indian.” Generalizations aside, is there some truth to this stereotype? Are Indians more likely than other races to be drunks? Of all the races, “Native Americans have the highest prevalence (12.1%) of heavy drinking…A larger percentage of Native Americans (29.6%) also are binge drinkers” (Chartier and Caetano 153). Although some research has been done on genetic causes, little is actually known about why American Indians have the most difficulty in limiting their alcohol consumption. However, the consequences of drinking encompass almost every aspect of their lives: health, social, and legal. Once that first drink is taken, alcohol becomes a best friend for many American Indians. A preventive plan needs to be incorporated to bring awareness to Native American children about the effects of alcohol so that they will never take that first drink. With a cultural and spiritual approach, leaning toward traditional tribal beliefs, education will empower Native Americans to break the chain of generational drinking patterns.
There are many problems caused by alcoholism, but what causes alcoholism? Sandra Alters of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Illicit Drugs believes, “The development of alcoholism is the result of a complex mix of biological, psychological, and social factors” (18). The list of health related issues are extensive and include: liver disease, liver cirrhosis, kidney di...


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Rybak, Christopher and Decker-Fitts, Amanda. “Theory and Practice Understanding Native
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Academic Search Elite. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.
SAMHSA—Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied
Studies. The NSDUH Report: Substance Use among American Indian or Alaska Native
Adults. Department of Health and Human Services. 24 June 2010. Web. 17 Oct. 2011.
Spillane, Nichea, Ph.D. “Problematic drinking risk and the American Indian.” The Brown University
Digest of Addiction Theory & Application. 28.2 (2009): 8. Academic Search Elite. Web.
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Sutton, Amy L., ed. “Alcohol and Minorities.” Alcoholism Sourcebook. 2nd ed. Detroit:
Omnigraphics, 2007. 85-89. Print. Health Reference Series.

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