Substance Abuse Treatment for Tribal Members & Native Americans

There are close to 6 million Native Americans (American Indians and Alaska Natives) in the US, which is only about 2% of the entire population, yet these communities experience much higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse compared to the general population.

Understanding Native American Substance Abuse

The Native American population has a long history of trauma, including forced relocation, residential schools and cultural suppression that has contributed to the high rates of substance abuse among their communities.

Compared to all other ethnic groups, Native Americans have the highest rate of alcohol, marijuana, hallucinogen, cocaine and inhalant use disorders. 

The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports the following stats for Native Americans: 

  • 10% of have a substance use disorder and close to 25% of report binge drinking in the past month.
  • methamphetamine abuse, including past month use rates at more than 3 times that of any other group
  • nearly 1 in 5 native youth (18-25) has a substance use disorder
  • 4 of 10 adolescents (12-17) have a lifetime prevalence of illicit drug use

Risk Factors for Addiction & Mental Health

The following factors have contributed to the high rates of substance use and mental health issues among Native American communities.

  • Historical trauma
  • Discrimination and racism
  • Violence
  • Domestic violence
  • Child abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Poverty
  • Lower levels of education
  • High levels of unemployment
  • Lack of health services and insurance

Challenges with Alcohol & Drug Treatment for Tribal Nations

Native American substance abuse is a complex issue that has been the subject of research and analysis for many years. Here are some statistics and information:

Alcohol abuse: Alcoholism is a significant problem and according to the Indian Health Service (IHS), Native Americans have higher prevalence of alcohol related deaths than any other ethnic group in the U.S

Drug abuse: Drug abuse is also a significant problem with methamphetamine and opioids being the most commonly abused substances. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), these communities have the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths compared to any other racial or ethnic groups.

Trauma & mental health: Substance abuse for tribal members is often linked to trauma from colonization, forced relocation and the loss of cultural identity which contribute to feelings of hopelessness and isolation and can cause depression and anxiety, which often leads to substance abuse.

Cultural barriers: Native American communities have unique cultural practices and beliefs that differ significantly from mainstream Western culture. These differences can make it challenging for some members to connect with traditional treatment facilities that may not align with their cultural values.

Stigma: There is often a stigma associated with seeking treatment for substance abuse within these communities which can make it difficult for individuals to seek treatment services and contributes to the cycle of addiction.

Lack of Resources: Many tribal communities lack access to substance abuse services and mental health treatment.

Prevention and treatment: Treatment centers providing programs that are culturally sensitive and tailored to the needs of tribal communities has been shown to be effective in reducing substance abuse. Inpatient and outpatient treatment for substance use disorders should strive to incorporate traditional healing practices in the treatment process.

If you’re a tribal member faced with substance use issues, reach out to Luxe Recovery to discuss treatment options and how they can help.

Traditional Healing Methods of Native Americans

Native American traditional healing methods vary widely among different tribes and regions, but some common practices include:

  • Herbal Medicine: Native American healers use a variety of plants and herbs for medicinal purposes, such as sage, cedar, tobacco and sweetgrass which are used to make teas, poultices and other remedies that are believed to have healing properties.
  • Sweat lodge: The sweat lodge is a ceremony that involves sitting in a small, dome-shaped hut heated by hot rocks. Participants pray, sing and meditate while in the lodge, which is believed to promote physical and spiritual healing.
  • Smudging: Smudging is a traditional practice that involves burning sage, cedar or other herbs and using the smoke to purify a person or space. This is often done before a ceremony or as a form of spiritual cleansing.
  • Dreamcatchers: Dreamcatchers are a traditional Native American craft that are believed to capture bad dreams and negative energy. They are often hung above a person’s bed or in a sacred space to promote good dreams and positive energy.
  • Healing ceremonies: Native American healers may perform various ceremonies to promote healing, such as the sun dance, vision quest or pipe ceremony. These ceremonies involve prayer, song and ritual and are often conducted in a sacred space.

It’s important to note that traditional healing practices vary widely among different Native American communities and should be approached with respect and cultural sensitivity.

Importance of Incorporating Traditional Native Healing Methods into Addiction Treatment 

Incorporating traditional native healing methods into drug and alcohol treatment is very important for Native American people for several reasons:

  • Cultural relevance: Many indigenous people have a deep connection to their traditional healing practices, which are often rooted in their cultural and spiritual traditions so by incorporating these methods into treatment, providers create a more culturally relevant and meaningful experience.
  • Holistic approach: Traditional native healing methods often take a holistic approach to healing, which focuses on treating the mind, body and spirit which can be especially important in treatment, as addiction impacts all aspects of a person’s life.
  • Community support: These healing methods often involve community support and involvement in native communities, which can be very beneficial for those in addiction treatment as it creates a sense of belonging and connection and promotes sobriety.
  • Trauma healing: Many indigenous people have experienced intergenerational trauma which has contributed to their addiction and these healing methods often focus on healing trauma.
  • Increased effectiveness: Research has shown that incorporating these methods into addiction treatment can be effective. For example, a study of Native American women with substance abuse disorders found that those who participated in a traditional healing program had significantly lower rates of relapse compared to those who received standard addiction treatment.

Benefits of Cultural Sensitivity in Treatment Programs

Culturally appropriate treatment is critical in alcohol and substance abuse programs for native populations because it acknowledges and respects the diversity, spiritual beliefs and unique needs of individuals from different cultural backgrounds which natives are more likely to relate to.

Addiction affects people of all races, ethnicities and cultures, therefore effective treatment must be tailored to meet the specific needs and values of each individual.

Here are some reasons why cultural sensitivity is important:

  1. Builds trust: creates an atmosphere of trust, acceptance and understanding between the patient and healthcare providers. This helps patients feel more comfortable and promotes better communication and engagement.
  2. Addresses unique needs: Different cultures have different attitudes towards substance use and addiction, and may have different beliefs, values and practices that influence their perceptions of addiction and treatment. Culturally sensitive treatment acknowledges these differences and tailors treatment to meet their unique needs.
  3. Reduces stigma: Culturally insensitive treatment can perpetuate stereotypes and stigmatize certain groups, leading to a reluctance to seek treatment whereas culturally sensitive treatment reduces stigma and encourages people to seek help.
  4. Improves treatment outcomes: treatment outcomes are more successful by improving patient engagement, communication and satisfaction with treatment and they are more likely to follow through with treatment recommendations which reduces risk of relapse.

Culturally Sensitive Treatment at Luxe Recovery

Luxe Recovery works with Native Americans from across the US to offer culturally sensitive treatment for drugs, alcohol and other addictions and mental health issues including trauma.

Luxe Recovery understands and respects the unique needs of tribal members and develops personalized treatment programs that address your individual needs.

If you’re a Native American struggling with addiction, give the team at Luxe Recovery a call today to learn more about how they can help.

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