Native adolescents in the United States are more prone to alcohol and drug abuse compared to non-native adolescents, said a recent study. The research, conducted by the social scientists at the Colorado State University (CSU), found that the probability of using cannabis was 4.8 times higher among native eighth graders and 1.6 times higher among the twelfth graders. Further, four in 10 native school students in middle school had used alcohol and almost one in four had been drunk. The findings were presented at the Society for Prevention Research Conference held in Washington DC from May 29 to June 1, 2018.
The researchers studied alcohol and drug use in the Native American young population living near or on the reservation since 1975. The findings reiterated a trend that had been observed since decades. Despite the recent statewide legalization of cannabis, there was no difference in the usage of weed in the datasets of 2009-12 and 2016-17. The study, published in the journal JAMA Network, presented the results from a survey offered to 1,660 Native American students from grades 8, 10 and 12, residing on or within 25 miles of a reservation, across 31 schools in the U.S., in 2016-17.
Lead author Randall Swaim, a senior research scientist at the College of Natural Sciences, Department of Psychology, CSU Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research, said that the researchers did not want to stigmatize or discriminate the Native American youth. Rather, they hoped their outcomes would garner focus on these youths and their problems. These youths had faced multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACE) like violence, trauma, loss and suicide. Still, the population had shown resilience through community support and extended family.
Research funded by NIDA
The Tri-Ethnic Center has decades of experience in accumulating beliefs, values and behaviors of rural Native American youth around substance abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), funded the study with a grant of $2.98 million for five years starting 2015. Co-author Linda Stanley, a senior research scientist, said that the researchers were trying to track changes over time, compared to the national sample. However, unfortunately, not many changes had been observed.
The researchers compared their survey “Our Youth….Our Future” with an ongoing University of Michigan survey “Monitoring the Future (MTF)” which tracks substance abuse across a representative sample of U.S. adolescents. The CSU survey had questions that were more or less similar to the MTF survey to enable appropriate comparison. The rates for alcohol abuse among the eighth graders were higher than the ones in the MTF survey. The study authors emphasized timely preventive programs and the use of culturally sensitive treatment strategies for the documented issues.
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