Recent studies of the urban Native American child population suggest that those who come from a grounded spiritual background don’t have the same urges to do drugs and drink alcohol as those who grow up without a spiritual underpinning. Drug and alcohol abuse has long been a source of discord and putrefaction in the Native American community, and studies have consistently shown that rates of use and abuse among Native Americans are significantly higher than the general population of the United States.
Arizona State University presented the study, “Spirituality and Religion: Intertwined Protective Factors for Substance Use among Urban American Indian Youth,” at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. The authors of this study are David R. Hodge, ASU School of Social Work associate professor; Stephanie L. Ayers, ASU Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center associate director of research; Flavio F. Marsiglia, ASU School of Social Work professor; Stephen Kulis, the study’s principal investigator and ASU School of Social and Family Dynamics professor, and Eddie F. Brown, ASU American Indian Studies professor and American Indian Policy Institute executive director.
The study, published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, found that American Indian children are more likely to use drugs and alcohol than their non- American Indian counterparts, making them at risk for using harder drugs in larger quantities at a young age and suffering from more severe consequences.
Native American children and adults tend not to separate their spiritual beliefs from their daily lives, giving them a strong sense of life and being. The researchers found that devotion to Native American traditions and beliefs was the sturdiest forecaster of views related to drug and alcohol use. Their attitudes about drugs and alcohol are directly correlated with low levels of abuse.
The data for the study was collected from Native American students enrolled in a total of five urban middle schools within a large city in 2009, and the average age of the 123 respondents was 12.6 years old. More than 55 percent of the students stated that they would never use alcohol, weed, or cigarettes if given the opportunity to because of their strong spiritual backgrounds and the belief that it was not acceptable for kids their own age to use such substances.
They also stated that their parents (78%) grandparents (69%) would be “very angry” if they found out they had experimented with drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. More than half (53%) of the respondents reported that they had resisted offers of drugs in the last 30 days. According to the study, spiritual beliefs are very strong among these children, allowing them to find something greater in themselves and aiding in their resistance to the temptations of drugs and alcohol. The children studied all believed that following either Native American tradition or Christianity was an important component in their lives.
Stephen Kulis stated that “Most American Indians now live in cities rather than tribal communities. Our study is one of the few to address the role of spirituality and religion among urban Native youth, recognizing the unique histories of cultural integration that characterize today’s urban American Indian communities and the complex belief systems and practices that sustain them in the urban landscape.”
By Matthew B.
American Sociological Association (ASA). “Native American Spiritual Beliefs Influential in Spurring Youth to Avoid Drugs and Alcohol.” ScienceDaily, 20 Aug. 2012. Web. 30 Aug. 2012.
Filed under: Life, Spirituality · Tags: alcohol use, American Indians, Amerindians, drug use, Native American youth, Native Americans, spiritual beliefs, spiritual traditions, Spirituality, substance abuse