Background & Goal
The health status of American Indian/Alaska Native and Indigenous youth globally is below that of the general youth population, with striking differences in areas including depression, suicide, anxiety, and substance abuse. The death rate for American Indian/Alaska Native youth is twice that for youth of other racial or ethnic backgrounds, and nearly 3 times higher for American Indian/Alaska Native boys. Early substance abuse is associated with antisocial behavior, conduct disorder, other mental health disorders, and school failure. While the economic costs of substance abuse to the American Indian/Alaska Native and Indigenous communities are significant, the human costs are even greater, with substance abuse and health-compromising behaviors during youth underlying many major causes of American Indian/Alaska Native and Indigenous morbidity and mortality.
American Indian/Alaska Native and Indigenous youth have the earliest age of initiation of alcohol use and the highest rates of binge drinking. By age 11, American Indian/Alaska Native and Indigenous youth are more likely than other youth to have initiated substance abuse and by the twelfth grade, 80% of American Indian/Alaska Nativeand Indigenous youth are active drinkers. In addition, American Indian/Alaska Native and Indigenous youth are more likely than other youth to have used methamphetamines, with a 6-fold increase in use in just the past 2 years. While current data on the rate of prescription drug abuse among American Indian/Alaska Native youth is limited, American Indian/Alaska Native as a population have significantly higher reported rates of nonmedical prescription drug use. Dr. John Lowe, PhD, RN, FAAN developed Talking Circle Intervention for the prevention and early intervention of substance abuse and other health risk behaviors engaged in by American Indian/Alaska Native youth nationally and Indigenous youth internationally.