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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Alcoholic Stereotypes of Native Americans

Perhaps you have heard a number of stereotypes about Native Americans? If so, then maybe you have heard that people in that demographic were predisposed to alcoholism? The stereotype of the “Drunken Indian” goes back centuries and remains to this day. While there are most certainly members of the various Native American communities that suffer from alcoholism, historically there has been little research to support the postulation.

Naturally, like the majority of pejorative stereotypes used to stigmatize different segments of society, hardly any can be backed by science and only serve to undermine those who have been labeled. In fact, new research suggests that Native Americans are not genetically or psychologically predisposed to alcoholism, and are actually more likely to abstain from alcohol than Caucasian Americans, Science 2.0 reports. What’s more, when it comes to excessive alcohol consumption, surveys showed that there was no difference between the two demographics regarding binge and heavy drinking rates.

The researchers found:
  • About 17 percent of both groups were binge drinkers.
  • About 8 percent of both groups were heavy drinkers.
  • Sixty percent of Native Americans abstained from alcohol use in the past month.
  • 43 percent of whites abstained from alcohol in the previous month.
"Of course, debunking a stereotype doesn't mean that alcohol problems don't exist," said James K. Cunningham, PhD, lead author, of the University of Arizona Native American Research and Training Center. "All major U.S. racial and ethnic groups face problems due to alcohol abuse, and alcohol use within those groups can vary with geographic location, age and gender. But falsely stereotyping a group regarding alcohol can have its own unique consequences. For example, some employers might be reluctant to hire individuals from a group that has been stereotyped regarding alcohol. Patients from such a group, possibly wanting to avoid embarrassment, may be reluctant to discuss alcohol-related problems with their doctors."

The findings come from an analysis of two surveys which involved 4,000 Native Americans and 170,000 Caucasian Americans, according to the article. The surveys included the National Survey on Drug Use and Health administered by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and another nationally representative survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System administered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you are a Native American who is struggling with a substance use disorder, please contact Whiteside Manor. We have over 10 years of experience treating Native American men and women for alcohol and drug dependency problems. Our staff has been trained in Native American philosophies, and regularly participates in cultural diversity training that is provided from the local Native American Recovery Community.

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