Drug and alcohol abuse is one of the major public health concerns globally. Many communities in the U.S are struggling to curb the excessive and irresponsible use of drugs and alcohol. The paper would discuss a brief history, effects and the strategies used in curbing the menace in reference to the Native Americans and the Alaska Native communities.
Native Americans and Alaska natives have a long history of alcohol use dating back to pre-colonial period. During that period, the European colonizers introduced distilled wine and spirits. The natives who were not used to such strong brand of alcohol quickly embraced the idea and used alcohol excessively to the point that it became a medium of exchange. The drinking habit was passed from one generation to the next generation, and it became a culture that has followed the tribes to date. Alcohol abuse has been a problem for the tribes for many centuries. In addition to alcohol problems, the tribes have also suffered high use of drugs and substances in the last decades. The abuse of drugs and alcohol among the tribes could be attributed to genetics, psychological stress, poverty, unemployment and unregulated availability (Beauvai, 2008).
The effects of drugs and alcohol abuse on the communities are categorized into medical, economical and social (Yeung, 2012). Medical effects include; depression, fatigue, anxiety and dependency, which are common occurrences among the Natives. There are also increased cases of road accidents attributed to drivers under the influence of Alcohol or other drugs such as marijuana which when taken in excess are known to interfere with motor control. Many drug users share hypodermic needs increasing the chances of transmission of HIV virus and other sexually transmitted infections among the population. There is also high infant mortality rates attributed to low birth weights from babies delivered by drug and alcohol addict mothers. Long-term use of drugs and alcohol causes liver cirrhosis, cancers of mouth, throat and lungs, fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum (Yeung, 2012).
The populations have also suffered from disabilities and dysfunctions such as mental dysfunction, sexual dysfunction and liver and kidney failures. The social effects of drug and alcohol abuse among the communities include criminal activities such as robbery, violence in the family for example, abusive marriages and loss of job. School drop outs, hopelessness, irresponsible parenting and isolation by the family members have also been reported (Beauvai, 2008). Economic consequences include increased burden on family members, lost working time and reduced productivity and increased turnover rates. Further economic impact is felt on the increased disease burden because of the increased prevalence of diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV and AIDS, Hepatitis B, depression, kidney and liver and brain complications (Chartier 2013).
In responding to the devastating effects of drug and alcohol abuse, Native Americans and Alaska natives have heavily invested on interventions aimed at reducing, preventing and finally eliminating the abuse of drugs and alcohol. The course brings together community leaders, scholars, politicians, religious leaders, healthcare providers the federal government, the central government and many other organizations of interest (Yeung, 2012). Some of the interventions executed by the communities include; drug and alcohol abuse policies such as the prohibition. The strategy involves limiting alcohol use and banning drug use. The second strategy involves rehabilitation services whereby the addicts are taken to treatment centers to receive medication and behavioral therapies. The communities, healthcare providers and the government are involved in intensive health education and promotion to sensitize the public on the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse. The last intervention involves the government and the private sector; the bodies’ strive to create employment opportunities both formal and informal. Such a strategy would keep most of the community members busy, reduce depression and alleviate poverty (Chartier 2013).
Beauvai, F. (2008). American Indians and drugs and Alcohol. ALCOHOL HEALTH & RESEARCH WORLD, 22(4), 254-258.
Chartier, K. (2013). Ethnicity and Health Disparities in Alcohol Research . National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 36, 1-7.
Yeung, B. (2012). Native American Drug Use Highest Among Teens, New Study Finds. TheHuffingtonPost, 23, 7.