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American Indian adolescents at increased risk for substance use

June 4, 2018
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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American Indian adolescents attending schools on or near reservations are at an increased risk for substance use issues compared to youths across the U.S., according to a Colorado State University study published this week on JAMA Network Open, a Journal of the Addiction Medicine Association digital publication.

The study, funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), surveyed Native American students attending eighth, 10th and 12th grades in participating schools near or on reservations. Their substance use rates were compared to those of comparably aged students who participated in NIDA’s annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) study.

Among the findings:

  • Both lifetime and past-30-day use rates for all substances measured were higher for American Indian students than MTF survey participants, except for tranquilizers and amphetamines.
  • The largest disparity between the two populations surveyed was eighth graders’ lifetime use of marijuana, with 43.7% of American Indian eighth graders reporting lifetime use vs. 12.8% of MTF survey participants.
  • The study also showed differences in both lifetime and past-30-day use of illicit substances not including marijuana. The largest discrepancy again was found between eighth grade populations: 16.2% of American Indian eighth graders reported lifetime use and 6.4% reported past-30-day use vs. 8.9% lifetime and 2.7% past-30-day for MTF eighth graders.

The study’s researchers concluded that the higher rates among American Indian students in the eighth grade stress “the critical need for early prevention efforts for American Indian youths living on or near reservations. … The distinct living environment of the reservation, coupled with high normative rates of use by peers and adults, creates prevention and treatment challenges unique to these youths.”


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