Higher rate of substance use among Native American youth on reservations

Science Spotlight

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A survey comparing drug use among Native American youth living on or near reservations to a national sample of American youth found that Native American youth report substantially higher use of alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, and other illicit drugs. The research from Colorado State University, published in JAMA Network Open, was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Using an anonymous online survey, the authors asked American Indian eighth, 10th, and 12th graders enrolled in schools on or near reservations to answer a set of questions about their use of illicit substances at any time during their life and during the past 30 days. The results were compared to responses from identical questions asked of approximately 50,000 eighth, 10th, and 12th graders surveyed in the NIDA-sponsored Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students, college students, and young adults. The general MTF sample has only about 5 percent America Indian participation.

The study found that lifetime drug use among American Indian youth were higher than among the general MTF sample at each grade level for all illicit substances, except for tranquilizers and amphetamines, and 30-day rates of use were higher for nearly all substances.

While much higher rates of illicit drug, alcohol, and cigarette use exist among American Indian youth, the study reinforces the need for early prevention efforts for all youth, including culturally-sensitive intervention materials that take advantage of the inherent strengths and traditions of Native American people.

For a copy of the paper published in JAMA Network Open, go to "Substance use Among American Indian Youth on Reservations with Comparison to a National Sample of US Adolescents."

For information about NIDA’s efforts to improve American Indian/Alaska Native addiction sciences, please see American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) Coordinating Committee.

For more information about all substances, including illicit drugs, alcohol, marijuana and tobacco, please visit Drugs of Abuse.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at media@nida.nih.gov or 301-443-6245. Follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

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About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): NIDA is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. For more information about NIDA and its programs, visit www.nida.nih.gov.

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