Indigenous Peoples Day 2020

A Look at Addiction in Indigenous Communities

As Recovery Unplugged celebrates and observes Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2020, we felt it important and pertinent to examine the complex and very real addiction-related issues facing Indigenous communities and the barriers they face when they seek treatment.

The World Health Organization’s Indigenous Peoples and Substance Abuse Project indicates that substance use problems are one of the major social and health issues facing these populations. The causes are complex; the impact, far-reaching and the solutions, far less accessible than they should be. The uphill battle these communities face is only part of a mosaic of adversity that has affected them for centuries.

What Are the Primary Addiction Issues Facing Indigenous Peoples?

Indigenous communities face a variety of substance abuse threats, from methamphetamine to opioids to other prescription drugs to alcohol. Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that:

  • 10 percent of Indigenous Peoples in the United States struggle with substance use disorder
  • Nearly five percent struggle with illicit drug use disorder
  • Over seven percent struggle with alcohol use disorder
  • Nearly a quarter report past-month binge drinking
  • Almost 30 percent report past-year illicit drug abuse

Rates of substance use disorder continue to be higher among indigenous communities than any other population in the country. Meth addiction rates are three times those of any other group and additional data from SAMHSA indicates that Indigenous populations rank highest for lifetime tobacco product use, marijuana use, nonmedical use of pain relievers, and nonmedical use of prescription psychotherapeutics. The problem is particularly pervasive among young adults and adolescents in these communities.

Reasons for High Rates of SUD in Indigenous Communities

The factors that lead to addiction among Indigenous peoples are similar to those of other historically marginalized populations, such as high rates of joblessness, ill-equipped support systems, high academic drop-out rates, systemic inequities in healthcare and more. These issues not only create prime opportunities for drug use and trafficking, they also make it harder to get treatment because of comparatively low rates of healthcare coverage.

The United Nations State of the World’s Indigenous People’s Report indicates that the disease patterns among American Indians and Alaska Natives are strongly associated with the adverse consequences of poverty, limited access to health services, and cultural dislocation.

Addressing Addiction Treatment Disparities for Indigenous Peoples

Recovery Unplugged recognizes the barriers that Indigenous communities face when they endeavor to access addiction treatment and other types of lifesaving care. We remain committed to increasing accessibility to treatment and providing culturally competent, supportive and intuitive care. If you or someone you care about is a member of an Indigenous population and you need help for substance use disorder, call Recovery Unplugged now.

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