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A description of alcohol/drug use and family history of alcoholism among urban American Indians.

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  • 1Pharmacology Department, University of Colorado, Denver, USA.


The patterns of alcohol consumption, family history of alcoholism, and lifetime and current diagnoses of substance dependence were determined in a sample of American Indians (n = 105) living in Denver. Subjects were recruited through flyers, posters, and advertisements placed in local newspapers, the Denver Indian Center, and Denver Indian Health and Family Services. Subjects were interviewed regarding their education, employment, past and present drug and alcohol use (including frequency/quantity, beverage type, and pattern of intake) and family history of alcoholism. The drug and alcohol sections of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule were administered in order to determine lifetime and current prevalence of substance dependence. Although there are limits to the generalizability of these data due to the use of a non-random sampling method, the results indicate that approximately half of the sample (50.5%) were abstinent or irregular drinkers with moderate intake (3.3 drinks/occasion). Binge drinkers (3.8%) consumed large amounts of alcohol per occasion, with a mean of 21.6 drinks. Also, 45.5% of the sample were regular drinkers (at least once/wk) with a mean of 11 standard drinks/occasion. The rate of current alcohol dependence (33.3%) and other drug dependence (18.1%) was relatively high with cocaine and cannabis the primary drugs of abuse. The most striking aspect of the sample was the very high rate of family history of alcoholism (60.6% with at least one alcoholic parent) and only 11.1% with no primary or secondary alcoholic family members.

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