In today’s competitive world, living up to worthy expectations is a cause of distress to many. The youth succumbs to the worldly challenges and pressures and experiments with alcohol and drugs. Alcohol abuse is an alarming condition in the American Indian.
Research highlights that American Indians have the highest rate proportionally of all the ethnic groups of problems related to alcoholism. The various problems faced by American Indians as individuals and as members of extended communities’ present great concern for all Native Americans.
The problem of alcoholism is as complicated as it is diverse. Cultural conflict, post traumatic stress and low self esteem are a few hazards that increase the risk for alcohol and substance abuse. The traditional native values often clash with the values of the dominant society. In a situation like this, the native youth finds him self in an alien domain resulting in a blurred self-image. Post traumatic stress is also very high in the Indian youth. The kith and kin of many Indian youngsters have an attached history of oppression and have invariably experienced the concentration camp existence of the first reservations; involuntary confinement at boarding schools; or various other social, psychological, and spiritual insults. Exposure to such trauma leads to isolation, fear, guilt, shame, depression, anger and irritability. High alcohol consumption is directly related to one’s self esteem. Unfortunately, Indian program specialists nationwide can cite various examples, including test results, that show tribal youth demonstrate lower self confidence than the population at large.
Alcoholism can lead to serious health issues such as cirrhosis of the liver, kidney dysfunctions, heart disease, fetal alcohol syndrome and other disorders of the body organs, central nervous system and genetic code. The ramifications of alcohol abuse go beyond the regime of medical issues. Loss of self control is a predominant feature of alcohol abuse. Consequently, alcohol abuse gives way to related problems like accidents, suicide, homicide, physical abuse of family members and self-inflicted injuries.
The best treatment comes in the guise of tribes and native communities taking an integrated initiative to conquer the abuse. Allies in this cause include parents and families, school personnel, social service providers, and physical and mental health care providers. In addition, court, law enforcement and tribal government personnel can provide valuable assistance as well. The emerging attitude of optimism has also taken the effort forward. The belief that success is possible paves the way to reject abuse. Tribal heritage, traditions and spiritual values are also being recognized as an additional vital resource. The feelings of an individual's tribal pride and unity need to be transmitted. These traditions and values must be articulated to instill positive self esteem and strengthen the struggle against alcohol abuse.
Alcoholism is not the setback of an individual but involves the family and community as a whole. In fact, it has the potential to engulf generations. Very gradually, a user of alcohol becomes an abuser of alcohol. Thereafter, the perceptions of reality begin to change and the individual becomes a slave to the abuse and is surrounded by feelings of hopelessness and despair. The problems faced by American Indians diversify into the two categories of individual and societal. Although the results of remedial programs carried out to stop alcohol abuse amongst the American Indian are encouraging but much is still left to be accomplished. Fortunately, Native people themselves have begun to describe the ways and establish the means for doing it.
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