Following American Indian Culture Is Top Predictor of Anti-Drug Behavior

A new research paper gives credence to the many rehabilitation and mental health centers throughout Indian country that incorporate traditional culture as a means of reducing teenage drug and alcohol abuse or dependency.

Following traditional culture is the strongest predictor of anti-drug behavior among American Indian teens, according to social scientists at the Arizona State University School of Social and Family Dynamics who presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA), August 17-20 in Denver, Colorado, reported the ASA.

Engaging spirituality and religion is associated with lower levels of substance use, scientists observed in their study, “Spirituality and Religion: Intertwined Protective Factors for Substance Use Among Urban American Indian Youth,” which was recently published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. For the study, scientists analyzed data from American Indian students enrolled in five urban middle schools all located within a large southwestern city in 2009. The average age of the 123 respondents was 12.6 years old.

“Most American Indians now live in cities rather than tribal communities. Our study is one of the few to address the role of spirituality and religion among urban Native youth, recognizing the unique histories of cultural integration that characterize today’s urban American Indian communities and the complex belief systems and practices that sustain them in the urban landscape,” said Stephen Kulis, the study’s principal investigator and ASU professor.

Students interviewed for the study said they thought their parents (78 percent) and grandparents (69 percent) would be “very angry” if they used drugs or alcohol. Still, just 51 percent stated they were “very sure” that they would reject any offers to try a drug.

Spirituality was significantly important to 80 percent of the respondents, and 79 percent said it was “very important” to follow traditional American Indian beliefs. About half felt it was important to follow Christian beliefs.

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