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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012 Nov 1;126(1-2):35-41. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.04.010. Epub 2012 May 9.

Regional differences in drug use rates among American Indian youth.

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Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research, Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins 80523, USA. Kimberly.Miller@Colostate.Edu



Research over the past several decades has shown that, compared to other American ethnic and racial groups, American Indian (AI) youth use alcohol and other drugs at significantly higher rates than their non-AI peers. However, to date, much of the research on AI adolescent substance use has been limited in the types of data used.


We used a national sample of AI youth living on or near reservations to estimate how lifetime and 30-day use of four substances (alcohol, marijuana, inhalants, and methamphetamine) differ by gender, grade in school, and region of the country.


Female use was equal to or greater than use by otherwise similar males for all substances assessed. Substance use also increased as grade increased except in the case of inhalants, where use peaked in the 8th grade and then decreased. Regional differences proved to be one of the most salient findings in that individuals in the Northern Plains and Upper Great Lakes were more likely to have used substances at much higher rates than those living in the Southwest and Oklahoma, except in the case of methamphetamine, where individuals in the Southwest were most likely to have used.


It is clear that substance use continues to be a problem for AI youth although the severity of use differs by region of the country, grade, and gender. Future research is needed to better understand the reasons behind these differences. Such research will aid in the development of targeted, regionally tailored prevention.

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