Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Poverty, and Suicide Among Native Americans By:Jud Langille

Native Americans have faced many obstacles including issues with severe poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide.

Drugs and Alcohol

Many Native Americans lives get ruined and destroyed because they become addicted to alcohol and drugs at very young ages. A quote from the article Tribes Traditional Values a Strong Medicine Against Addiction that shows an example of an Indian who was addicted to a drug at an early age is, "Like many on the reservation here, she first tried the highly addictive stimulant methamphetamine at age 12. Legal trouble at 13 with an arrest for public intoxication." In a lot of the reservation families, drugs and alcohol become a religion and a tradition and the addictive personality gene/trait gets passed on from generation to generation.

Another important quote from niaaa.gov that shows the significance of alcohol in the Indian community is, "Native Americans and Alaskan natives are 5 times more likely than other ethnicities in the US to die of alcohol related causes." This shows how apparent the constant alcohol and drug use is for people that are Native American and the terrible problems that they face due to the addiction.


Unfortunately, Native Americans also have very high suicide rates among their people compared to other races. The lifestyle of many Indian families is a big contributor to the suicide of many. A quote from the article Indian Nations fighting the scourge of suicide among their youth, that shows some causes of suicide is, "In Indian Country, there are many problems that increase the risks of youth suicide, Wagner said. Poverty, isolation, lack of adequate resources to treat mental health problems, substance abuse and family turmoil are some of the reasons she listed. There is this feeling of being trapped, and having nowhere to go." These are all terrible feelings and these factors put the people on the reservation in a horrific situation and in an extreme need of help.

The article Native American Youth Suicide Rates are at Crisis Levels, also explains how the Native American population is suffering from suicide from the quote, "a small Northern Plains reservation that had suffered 17 suicides in eight months." This is so disturbingly sad that in just eight months 17 people in a small community had taken their own lives.


Poverty is a very crucial obstacle on the reservations. In the article One in Four Native American and Alaskan Natives are Living in Poverty, it says "The poverty rate at Standing Rock Reservation is 43.2%, nearly triple the national average". When poverty is highly apparent, just like in this case, other problems like mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide are bound to occur.

Native Americans often lack the important resources of food, shelter, water, and clothing. As a result, many die. A quote from the article Murder by Poverty in Indian Country: Then and Now, is "it began by announcing that Indians were 'extremely poor' and locked in a 'vicious circle of poverty' that was perpetuated by inadequate housing, sanitation, nutrition, and healthcare that was substandard even by the standards of the teeming tenements in the cities or even the poorest white rural communities." Many Native American tribes are living in an unimaginable situation and something needs to be done to get real help quickly.

In the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian the main character, Junior, is surrounded by poverty. A quote demonstrating this is, "I wish I were magical, but I am really just a poor-ass reservation kid living with his poor-ass family on the poor-ass Spokane Indian Reservation (Alexie pg.7)." This shows the realization by Junior that the situation that he is living in is highly unfortunate.

This picture shows how important and valuable a low quality, cheap and inexpensive food, the fried chicken, is to Junior and his people. In this picture, the fried chicken is depicted as if it has come from heaven and is purely amazing. To people in other cultures, the fried chicken is disgusting and is of a very low quality.

In the book, there were multiple lives lost due to alcohol. Towards the end of the book, Junior's sister died in a fire because she was passed out drunk when the fire started. A quote that shows the dire effect of alcohol in the Native American culture is "OF COURSE THEY WERE DRUNK! THEY'RE INDIANS! (Alexie pg.205)." This shows that Junior is used to the extreme alcohol abuse of his fellow Indians.

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