National Alliance For Drug Endangered Children

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Considerations for Native Americans and Tribal Populations

Rural Health Information Hub – 2020

Native American and tribal communities are especially vulnerable to substance use disorders. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that American Indians or Alaska Natives were more likely than other racial and ethnic populations to have needed treatment for substance use disorders between 2003 and 2011, including for alcohol use (14.4 versus 7.6 percent) and illicit drug use (6.5 versus 3.1 percent).

Documentation of substance misuse, including opioid use disorder and overdose, may also be underestimated if neighboring communities provide emergency medical services and do not identify “tribal” status in records. This lack of data impacts the ability of tribes to apply for funds to support substance use disorder treatment programs and track their success in implementing these programs.

There are a number of barriers to treatment in tribal communities, including limited resources, stigma, and fear of arrest. Tribal communities may not have naloxone available or people who are trained to administer naloxone. Additionally, there is a lack of education about how to help someone who is overdosing.

One rural substance use disorder treatment program serving tribal populations contracted with a native project coordinator who has existing relationships with contacts at partner tribes. Programs have also invested in social marketing campaigns to ensure that the messages of the program are tailored to the culture of the community.

Other resources to address substance use disorders include the Northwest Tribal Substance Abuse Action Plan.