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Native Americans and Tribal Populations

Native American and tribal communities are especially vulnerable to substance abuse issues. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that American Indians or Alaska Natives were more likely than other racial and ethnic populations to have needed treatment for substance abuse between 2003 and 2011, including for alcohol use (14.4 versus 7.6 percent) and illicit drug use (6.5 versus 3.1 percent).

Documentation of substance abuse, including opioid abuse and overdose, may also be underestimated if neighboring communities provide emergency medical services and do not identify “tribal” status in records. This lack of data impacts the ability of tribes to apply for funds to support substance abuse treatment programs and track their success in implementing these programs.

There are a number of barriers to treatment in tribal communities, including limited resources, stigma, and fear of arrest. Tribal communities may not have naloxone available or people who are trained to administer naloxone. Additionally, there is a lack of education about how to help someone who is overdosing.

One rural substance abuse treatment program serving tribal populations contracted with a native project coordinator who has existing relationships with contacts at partner tribes. Programs have also invested in social marketing campaigns to ensure that the messages of the program are tailored to the culture of the community.

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education has developed a webinar and presentation on providing substance abuse prevention and treatment services in Native American tribal communities. Other resources to address substance abuse include the Northwest Tribal Substance Abuse Action Plan.

Resources to Learn More

Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program
Website
This website provides a collection of resources to address substance abuse in American Indian and Alaskan Native populations such as screening tools, trainings, and information about pregnancy and substance abuse.
Organization: Indian Health Services

Systematic Review of Interventions Focusing on Indigenous Adolescent Mental Health and Substance Use
Document
Analysis of mental health and substance abuse interventions for American Indian and Alaska Native adolescent populations to identify key intervention factors in reducing mental health disparities.
Authors: Antonio, M., Chung-Do, J.
Date: 2015

Wellbriety Movement
Website
Recovery information for Native Americans pursuing sober lifestyles.
Organization: Wellbriety