American Indian spiritual beliefs influential in spurring youth to avoid drugs and alcohol

August 20, 2012

New research indicates that urban American Indian youth who follow American Indian traditional spiritual beliefs are less likely to use drugs and alcohol. Arizona State University social scientists will present their findings at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

The study, "Spirituality and Religion: Intertwined Protective Factors for Substance Use Among Urban American Indian Youth," was recently published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. The authors are: Stephen Kulis, the study's principal investigator and ASU School of Social and Family Dynamics professor; David R. Hodge, ASU School of Social Work associate professor; Stephanie L. Ayers, ASU Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center associate director of research; Eddie F. Brown, ASU American Indian Studies professor and American Indian Policy Institute executive director; and Flavio F. Marsiglia, ASU School of Social Work professor.

"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 ," Kulis said.

Among the general American Indian youth population, higher rates of substance (both drug and alcohol) abuse are reported than among their non-American Indian counterparts. They also are more likely to use heavier amounts, initiate substance use earlier, and have more severe consequences from substance use, according to past research.

typically do not separate spirituality from other areas of their lives, making it a complex, cultural and intertwined aspect of their daily existence.

Researchers found that adherence to American Indian beliefs was the strongest predictor of anti-drug attitudes, norms, and expectations. Concerning substance use, aspects of spirituality and religion associated with lower levels of use were affiliation with the Native American Church and following Christian beliefs.

Data for the study were collected from American Indian students enrolled in five urban middle schools within a large southwestern city in 2009. The average age of the 123 respondents was 12.6 years old.

Most of the study respondents expressed strong anti-drug and alcohol beliefs, with the majority stating that they "definitely would not" use alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana if given an opportunity (55 percent) and that it was "definitely not okay" for students their age to use those substances.

Respondents also felt that their parents (78 percent) and grandparents (69 percent) would be "very angry" if they used drugs or and 51 percent stated they were "very sure" that they would reject any substance offers.

Also notable was that about half (53 percent) had resisted offers of drugs in the past 30 days.

Spirituality was reflected as an important aspect in students' lives. More than 80 percent of respondents said that spirituality held some importance to them and was part of their lives. Seventy-nine percent of the students felt it was "somewhat" or "very important" to follow traditional American Indian beliefs and about half felt it was important to follow Christian beliefs.

However, a general sense of spirituality that did not refer specifically to American Indian traditions, beliefs, or culture was not found to be a deterrent against substance use.

"Rituals and ceremonies have helped American Indian communities adapt to change, integrate elements of different tribes, infuse aspects of Western organized religions, and make them their own," according to the paper.

In addition, the paper states that possessing a feeling of belonging to traditions from both American Indian and Christian cultures may foster integration of the two worlds in which urban American Indian youth live.

Explore further: Parental behavior regarding alcohol is a heavy influence on American Indian teenagers, study says

Related Stories

Parental behavior regarding alcohol is a heavy influence on American Indian teenagers, study says

June 29, 2011
Urban American Indian teenagers with alcoholic parents perceive their parents to be less restrictive about drinking and tend to face more alcohol-related problems at age 18, according to a new study by Colorado State University’s ...

Web site to aid veterans with PTSD

April 12, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- A Montana State University Native American Studies professor has launched a new Web site that he hopes will help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder through forums that discuss ceremonies.

Recommended for you

Findings link aldosterone with alcohol use disorder

July 18, 2017
A new study led by scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, demonstrates that aldosterone, a hormone produced in the adrenal glands, may contribute ...

Depression among young teens linked to cannabis use at 18

July 17, 2017
A study looking at the cumulative effects of depression in youth, found that young people with chronic or severe forms of depression were at elevated risk for developing a problem with cannabis in later adolescence.

Why does prenatal alcohol exposure increase the likelihood of addiction?

July 7, 2017
One of the many negative consequences when fetuses are exposed to alcohol in the womb is an increased risk for drug addiction later in life. Neuroscientists in the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions are ...

Researchers say U.S. policies on drugs and addiction could use a dose of neuroscience

June 23, 2017
Tens of thousands of Americans die from drug overdoses every year – around 50,000 in 2015 – and the number has been steadily climbing for at least the last decade and a half, according to the National Institute on Drug ...

Study provides further support for genetic factors underlying addictions

June 13, 2017
Impairment of a particular gene raises increases susceptibility to opioid addiction liability as well as vulnerability to binge eating according to a new study.

From pill to needle: Prescription opioid epidemic may be increasing drug injection

May 8, 2017
The prescription opioid epidemic is shrinking the time it used to take drug users to progress to drug injection, a new Keck School of Medicine of USC-led study suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.