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Native American Substance Abuse Treatment Outcomes

Approximately 5.6 million Native Americans live in the United States. While this number is only 1.7 percent of the entire population, the rate of substance abuse or addiction issues are much higher than other populations. Regarding the use of alcohol, marijuana, hallucinogens, cocaine, and inhalants, Native Americans have the highest rates of use compared to other ethnic groups.

There are various factors that contribute to the higher numbers of natives that struggle with addiction, such as:

  • Poverty
  • Historical trauma
  • Unemployment
  • Higher levels of violence (gang, sexual, domestic)
  • Racism
  • Not much access to high quality healthcare
  • No health insurance
  • Discrimination
  • Higher levels of school dropouts

Addiction Treatment for Native Americans

According to The Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration, (SAMHSA) out of 13 percent of Native Americans that need substance abuse treatment, only 3.5 percent actually receive it. The reason for this includes not being able to afford the cost of treatment, limited health insurance, lack of transportation, and limited treatment centers near their location.

What may be helpful in treating addiction for Native Americans is including their cultural background, rituals, and lifestyle in the program. Good news is that more treatment centers are doing just this, realizing that cultural identity and spirituality is important for them. Including such things as drum circles, sweat lodges, powwows, fire ceremonies, etc. can increase the changes of native participants feeling at home – and more likely to respond to treatment.

Effectiveness of Substance Abuse Treatment for Native Americans

Not that many studies have been done in regard to Native Americans and substance abuse treatment programs. More research should be done, especially since the rate of addiction is so high among the population.

Most of the research that has been done has been in small Native American communities. The focus has primarily been on alcoholism.

In one study in Minnesota, 45 Native Americans that were hospitalized for alcoholism were tracked through the years to see improvements. After ten years post-treatment, only 7 of those 45 showed improvement, and this was in the area of employment and relationships.

Another study looked at 642 Navajo Native Americans who spent time in both residential and outpatient treatment programs for alcoholism. After four years, the follow up showed only 28 percent showed valuable improvements.

A third study looked at the differences in treatment between Native Americans and non-Natives in California between 2000 and 2002. 368 Native Americans were in the study, as well as 368 non-Natives.

The problems in both groups were similar before attending addiction treatment. Around half of both groups either finished treatment or remained for more than 90 days. The Native Americans that entered residential treatment programs has “significantly shorter treatment retention.” They also underwent less individual therapy sessions and community programs services. Both groups reported improvements after the treatment, but Native Americans said that there were room for improvements for the types of programs offered to their culture.

Native American Substance Abuse Treatment

Treating Native Americans who have become addicted to alcohol or drugs is important. Since cultural factors play a role in overall health and wellness, adding programs and services that reflect the practices and traditions for this population is quite valuable. You can get addiction treatment, while also participating in various culture-based interventions.

Programs or traditions that may be helpful include:

  • Drum circles
  • Talking circles
  • Sweat lodge
  • Spiritual mentorship
  • Culturally relevant songs or prayers
  • Ceremonies, such as fire or water

The Indian Health Service, funded by the U.S. Department of Social Services, helps local tribes by funding culturally relevant recovery programs. These initiatives are helping those that are struggling with addiction, and often those people turn around and helps others that are struggling in the tribe.

Addiction Problems? Reach Out for Help

If you’re struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, know that there are treatment centers that specialize in treating Native Americans. You do not have to stay stuck in addiction any longer. There are compassionate, expert professionals ready and willing to assist you in your freedom journey. Simply reach out and take that first step toward creating a new chapter in your life – a chapter where you’ll break free from the chains of addiction and improve every area of your life.

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