Native American Addiction Recovery - The Discovery House

Native American Addiction Recovery

The need for Native American addiction recovery options is unfortunately nothing new. This is because drug and alcohol addiction impact the Native American reservations more than other areas of the country. This is generally because Native Americans have some of the highest rates of substance abuse problems.

In fact, figures from the federal government have outlined that around 18% of Native American adults require substance use disorder treatment. This is almost twice the national average. This also has shown that deaths from complications related to alcoholism, homicide, and suicidal ideation and native communities are up to six times higher among Native Americans than other populations.

Why is Addiction to Prevalent in Native American Communities?

Drug and alcohol addiction is often due to many different factors. Poverty and crime are huge reasons for this, but there are other unique considerations for Native American communities. Most Native American communities face high unemployment rates, which means that many people live below the poverty line.

Effects and Causes of Addiction in Native Americans

The physical health effects of alcoholism and substance use disorder have caused a liver disease rate that is up to four times higher than the general population, as well as higher rates of drinking and driving, and higher-than-average rates of heart and lung disease.

Other damages of abuse include damages to the stability of the Native American community as a whole. This is because serious family problems arise when a person develops alcoholism. Although alcoholism is a serious disease, opiate abuse can be even worse due to long-lasting effects, as well as the inability to care for children.

Rates of Addiction in Native Americans

Around 15% of the Native American population meets the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder. This is much higher than the 4.6% found in Asians, 7.4% among blacks, and 8.4% among whites. In addition, Native Americans make up less than 1% of the U.S population and only make up 2.5% of all American adults admitted for substance use disorder treatment. These rates do not add up, which means that there is a much higher rate of abuse in these communities that are not getting help.

Alcoholism in Native Communities

Out of all substance abuse problems, alcoholism is the most common problem for Native Americans. Between 2002 to 2008, it was the primary drug for 56% of all Native American rehab admissions.

It was found that Native Americans fall into two categories, anxiety drinkers and recreational drinkers. Anxiety drinkers abuse alcohol in order to self-medicate or deal with mental pain. However, recreational drinkers binge drink. This is generally socially, so if they do not drink any longer they would stop having a social circle.

Opiate Abuse in Native Communities

The second most abused drug among Native populations is opiates. This increased from only 1% in 2002 to 15% in 2008. Additionally, the opioid-related overdose death rate is 13.7 deaths per 100,000 Native Americans. This is higher than the national average.


Although not an illegal drug, the rate of tobacco usage among those 12 and older is 37%. This is higher than any other demographic group in the United States.


Another drug that is not necessarily illegal in all states is marijuana. Native Americans have the highest rates of lifetime use for marijuana. It was found in 2015, 54% of Native Americans had used marijuana at least once in their lives. It was also found that 15.3% of American Indian high school seniors smoke marijuana almost daily.

Native American Addiction Recovery

Crystal Meth

There is also a meth overdose epidemic in native communities. This is because in the Native American community, methamphetamines are often used by people whose jobs require long shifts. They are also used by people who have a small amount of money to spend on drugs.

Identifying Signs of Concern with Substance Use

Being able to understand why Native communities are using these substances, and if you may have a problem, is essential to stop them. Additionally, having cultural connections in recovery programs can help to combat substance use. Common signs to be concerned about, regarding addiction include:

  • Need to use a drug regularly
  • Having intense urges to use a drug
  • Needing more of a drug to get the same effect
  • Taking larger amounts of the drug over a longer period of time
  • Always making sure there is some of the drug on hand
  • Spending money on the drug even if you cannot afford it
  • Not meeting obligations and work responsibilities
  • Stopping activities once loved in order to use
  • Continuing to use the drug regardless of the negative outcome
  • Doing things to get drugs that you normally wouldn’t do
  • Driving or doing other risky activities while under the influence
  • Spending a good deal of time getting the drug
  • Failing attempts to stop using the drug
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop taking the drug

Dual Diagnosis in Native American Communities

Substance use and mental health disorders often co-exisit. Treatment for both of these in conjunction is referred to as dual diagnosis treatment. Especially in Native American communities, there are economic, social, and cultural reasons for this as well. When treatment is available to address both of these disorders, it is essential to provide it.

The reason that dual diagnosis is more common in indigenous communities, is that tribal identities across the United States have been altering their mental states for centuries. This has been due to things like sleep deprivation, fasting, and even the use of psychotropic substances like tobacco and peyote.

Although many of these activities were undertaken for spiritual or shamanic rituals and practices, they have affected mental health in some ways. Additionally, in the past when Europeans came to colonize America, there was generational trauma passed on to the Native people.

Common Co-Existing Disorders

The most common co-occurring disorders in Native Communities include depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Contributing to these disorders is exposure to trauma and hardship. Risk among youth is much higher as well, as they display higher rates of depressive episodes compared to any other ethnic group.

An effective program, such as the offering here at The Discovery House, combines evidence-based practices like medically assisted detox, as well as residential care, individual therapy, and support groups.

Traditional Healing Methods and Practices

There are many traditional methods of healing and practices, such as smudge sticks and sweat lodge practices. Although these native languages and spiritual practices are not completely proven to work, they can be helpful to integrate with traditional medicine and practices.

Native American Addiction Recovery

Choosing a Path to Recovery as a Native American

There are many communities being affected by drug and alcohol addiction. Because drugs and alcohol bring the worst out of people, it can also be difficult to push someone to get help, or even understand you have a problem. With physical and mental health support services, to help treat addiction, getting help for your addiction is possible.

Personalized Plans for Native American Clients

There are treatment programs specifically available for Native Americans. Some of these programs are geared specifically towards Native American culture. You may wonder, does insurance cover treatment for Native Americans?

There are many organizations that provide this. The Discovery House is here to help, contact us today. If you are not already on a treatment plan, contact us today and we can help you understand your options.