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Alcohol Takes Heavy Toll on American Indians' Health

Problem drinking strongly linked to wide range of physical ailments, study finds

MONDAY, March 27, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Alcohol abuse and dependence among American Indians is related to a higher risk for a host of health problems, a new study shows.

"Among American Indians, five of the top 10 causes of death are strongly associated with alcohol use: accidents, suicides, homicides, and cirrhosis. These causes of deaths occur at rates at least three to four times the national average," study co-author Jay Shore, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado at Denver, the Health Sciences Center's American Indian and Alaska Native Programs, said in a prepared statement.

Reporting in the April issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, his team analyzed data that had been previously collected from members of two culturally distinct tribes, the Southwest (1,446 people) and the Northern Plains (1,638 people).

They found a significant link between alcohol abuse/dependence and injuries and other health issues, including sprains and strains; hearing and vision problems; kidney and bladder problems; head injuries; pneumonia and tuberculosis; dental problems; liver problems; and pancreatitis.

"The total count of medical conditions was also significantly related to alcohol abuse/dependence, with a higher count being associated with the outcome," Shore said.

Further research is needed in order to better quantify the association between the degree of alcohol use and medical conditions among American Indians, he said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about American Indian health.

SOURCE: University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, news release, March 26, 2006
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