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American Indians' Drinking Not as Common as Thought

Study refutes stereotype on alcohol use

FRIDAY, Nov. 14, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- While rates of alcohol dependence among American Indians are higher than national averages, they're not as high as indicated by previous research.

So says a study in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The study examined alcohol dependence among two culturally distinct Northern Plains and Southwest tribes. Researchers concluded that only a minority of people in the two tribes met the criteria for alcohol dependence, a finding that refutes stereotypes about the use of alcohol by American Indians.

"Previous research has tended to report on only one tribe or to aggregate American Indian samples in ways that do not permit explicit examination of cultural issues," says study first author Paul Spicer, an associate professor of psychiatry in the American Indian and Alaskan Native Programs at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, in a prepared statement.

"While no one study could do justice to the tremendous cultural diversity among contemporary American Indian tribes, we wanted to include two distinct tribal populations representing important variations in aboriginal subsistence adaptation, social organization and religious/spiritual traditions in order to document possible cultural differences in alcohol dependence," Spicer says.

"A lot of what was 'known' in the past about alcohol use among American Indians was anecdotal, stereotypical and fueled by bias," Fred Beauvais, a senior research scientist at the Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research at Colorado State University, adds in a prepared statement.

"This manuscript helps to clarify that there is more abstinence from alcohol among American Indians than there is among non-Indians. I think the average person would be taken aback when hearing this, since it contradicts the conventional wisdom," Beauvais says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about Native American health.

SOURCE: University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, news release, Nov. 14, 2003
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