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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Nov 1;133(1):180-7. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.05.011. Epub 2013 Jun 20.

Measuring historical trauma in an American Indian community sample: contributions of substance dependence, affective disorder, conduct disorder and PTSD.

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Molecular and Cellular Neurosciences Department, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA. Electronic address:



The American Indian experience of historical trauma is thought of as both a source of intergenerational trauma responses as well as a potential causative factor for long-term distress and substance abuse among communities. The aims of the present study were to evaluate the extent to which the frequency of thoughts of historical loss and associated symptoms are influenced by: current traumatic events, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cultural identification, percent Native American Heritage, substance dependence, affective/anxiety disorders, and conduct disorder/antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).


Participants were American Indians recruited from reservations that were assessed with the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism (SSAGA), The Historical Loss Scale and The Historical Loss Associated Symptoms Scale (to quantify frequency of thoughts and symptoms of historical loss) the Stressful-Life-Events Scale (to assess experiences of trauma) and the Orthogonal Cultural Identification Scale (OCIS).


Three hundred and six (306) American Indian adults participated in the study. Over half of them indicated that they thought about historical losses at least occasionally, and that it caused them distress. Logistic regression revealed that significant increases in how often a person thought about historical losses were associated with: not being married, high degrees of Native Heritage, and high cultural identification. Additionally, anxiety/affective disorders and substance dependence were correlated with historical loss associated symptoms.


In this American Indian community, thoughts about historical losses and their associated symptomatology are common and the presence of these thoughts are associated with Native American Heritage, cultural identification, and substance dependence.


American Indian; Historical trauma; PTSD; Substance dependence

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