Community involvement and individual intervention are the most effective ways to reduce alcohol abuse among Native American youths, according to a new study.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), with help from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found that community planning and working to reduce access to alcohol, in tandem with one-on-one consultation with students, significantly reduces alcohol abuse among Native American youths.
Enjoy films for and about real Indians Natives when you download our special free report, 50 Must-See Modern Native Films and Performances!
The researchers admit that, prior to this study, Native Americans, especially those in rural communities, “have been underrepresented in studies aimed at finding effective solutions for underage drinking.”
“This important study underscores our commitment to finding evidence-based solutions for alcohol problems in American Indian and other underserved populations,” NIAAA Director George F. Koob, Ph.D., said in the report. “This study is one of the largest alcohol prevention trials ever conducted with an American Indian population, and the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of screening and brief counseling intervention in significantly reducing youth alcohol use at a community level.”
The researchers used two strategies for the study. The first, called Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol, was geared to reduce access and use of alcohol among Native American students. It also emphasized educating youths about the detriments to health and the social consequences of alcohol abuse.
The second strategy, called CONNECT, focused on individual youths, providing each with consultation every semester.
“Over the course of the study, researchers found that self-reports of alcohol use, including any use and heavy drinking episodes (five or more drinks on at least one occasion) in the past 30 days, was significantly reduced among students receiving either or both interventions, compared with students in the control communities,” the report reads.
The study was conducted over three years with 1,623 students at a single high school in mostly Cherokee Nation territory in northeastern Oklahoma. Half of the student population in the area are Native American, according to the report.
“Community organizing has been used effectively in multiple other health intervention trials and appeared to be an optimal strategy to engage diverse citizens in these multicultural communities,” Dr. Kelli A. Komro of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, who led the team of researchers for this study, said in the report. Its results were published this month in the American Journal of Public Health.
Last year, a similar study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, revealed that Native Americans are more likely to abstain from alcohol and booze than whites.
The study flew in the face of the long-held stereotype that Native Americans are predisposed to alcoholism. The 2016 study revealed that whites and Native Americans will binge drink at similar rates.
Recently, a growing number of studies have shown that it isn’t a Native American’s genetic makeup, but trauma, that can prompt substance abuse.
“The American Indian experience of historical trauma is thought of as both a source of intergenerational trauma responses as well as a potential causative factor for long-term distress and substance abuse among communities,” reads a study published in 2013.