Mention modern Native American and a stereotype comes immediately to mind: the drunken Indian, either slumping on the city street, begging for money, or on the reservation, unemployed, living in squalor, unable to provide for his or her family. Sadly, in this case, the stereotype is often true. Once a proud people of resource and spirituality, Native Americans have been termed "the silent minority", oftentimes depending on government programs -- often inadequate -- and drugs to see them through. According to the Public Broadcasting System, "generations of poverty, unemployment, and historical trauma make drugs a powerful escape". (Indian Country Diaries, 2006)
In 2008, the Associated Press reported that almost twelve percent of deaths among Native Americans were alcohol-related, more than three times the percentage of the general population. These deaths are most frequently caused by traffic accidents and alcohol-caused liver disease, but also include homicide, suicide, and deaths caused by injuries in falls. Sixty-six percent of deaths occured in Native Americans 50 years old and younger, and seven percent were 20 years old and younger. The AP also stated that there may be many more alcohol-related deaths than the study shows, in part because the Center for Disease Control analysis did not count deaths related to some diseases for which alcohol is believed to be an important risk factor, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, and colon cancer. The greatest number of tribal alcohol-related deaths -- about a third of the total -- occurred in the Northern Plains, where reservations are remote and often destitute. (AP, 2008)
Illicit drug use is higher among Native Americans across all age groups compared to non-Indians, including marijuana, cocaine, inhalants, hallucinogens, and non-medical use of psychotherapeutics, such as peyote. (Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 2009)
The population of Native Americans consists of...