Tri-Ethnic Center

College of Natural Sciences

Substance Use Among American Indian Youth



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Purpose and Design

The Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research at Colorado State University has been monitoring American Indian youth substance use behaviors and their correlates for over 30 years.  Each year the Center surveys a sample of 7th – 12th grade American Indian students who live on or near reservations about their drug and alcohol use, attitudes toward substance use, and many other variables. This study has been funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).   Below is a summary of selected recent findings. 


Epidemiology-Recent Findings

How Do Rates of American Indian Youth Substance Use Compare to National Rates?

A comparison of American Indian (AI) youth substance use data to national rates from Monitoring the Future (MTF) for the years 2009-2012 shows that adolescent substance use is still a major problem among reservation-based AI students. This is especially true for 8th graders where lifetime, annual, and last month prevalence rates were significantly higher than national rates for nearly all substances. (More)

Stanley L.R., Harness, S., Swaim, R.C., & Beauvais F. (2013, in press).   Trends in substance use among American Indian youth living on or near reservations; Update, 2009-2012. Public Health Reports.


How Do Drug Use Rates Among American Indian Youth Vary by Region?

AI students in the Northern Plains and Upper Great Lakes are more likely to have used substances at much higher rates than those living in the Southwest and Oklahoma, with the exception of methamphetamines, where students in the Southwest have higher use rates. Use among female AI students was equal to or higher than that of male AI students. (More)

Miller K.A., Stanley L.R., Beauvais F. (2012).   Regional differences in drug use rates among American Indian youth. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 126(1-2), 35-41.


Do Drug Use Rates Differ Between Oklahoma and Non-Oklahoma Indian Youth?

Oklahoma Indian 7th-12th graders have significantly lower drug use rates than those of Non-Oklahoma Indian 7th -12th graders. In addition, Oklahoma youth show later ages of initiation of drug use and greater perceptions of harm from using drugs. (More)

Tragesser, S.L., Beauvais, F., Burnside, M., & Jumper-Thurman, P. (2010)   Differences in illicit drug-use rates among Oklahoma and non-Oklahoma Indian youth. Substance Use and Misuse, 45(13) 2323-39.


How does American Indian 4th-6th grade drug use compare to non-Indian use?

Marijuana use rates for American Indian 4th-6th graders are significantly higher than non-Indian 4th-6th graders while inhalant use rates are very similar. Last month marijuana use rates are 5 to 10 times higher for Indian youth, suggesting very early initiation of marijuana use for a large percentage of Indian youth. (More)

Miller K.A., Beauvais F., Burnside M., & Jumper-Thurman P. (2008).   A comparison of American Indian and non-Indian fourth to sixth graders' rates of drug use. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse. 7(3), 258-267.


Are tobacco use rates for American Indian adolescents similar to those for non-Indian youth?

Comparing MTF rates of tobacco use for 8th, 10th and 12th grade youth to Indian youth shows that their use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are significantly higher than those found for the MTF national survey. In conjunction with these higher rates are lower levels of perceived harm of tobacco use. (More)

Beauvais F., Thurman P.J., Burnside M, & Plested B. (2007).   Prevalence of American Indian adolescent tobacco use: 1993-2004. Substance Use and Misuse. 42(4), 591-601.

Etiology Recent Findings

Does Bonding to School Protect American Indian Adolescents Against the Effects of Peer Influences on Alcohol Use?

While peer alcohol use increases risk for alcohol use among AI students ages 11 to 19, bonding to school serves as a protective factor, buffering the effects of peer alcohol use among AI youth younger than 16. School bonding also reduces the likelihood of level of alcohol use among all AI students. (More)

Dickens, D., Dieterich, S.E., Henry, K.L., & Beauvais, F. (2012).  School bonding as a moderator of the effect of peer influences on alcohol use among American Indian adolescents.  Journal of Studies on Alcohol & Drugs, 73, 597-603.


Does the Normative Environment for Alcohol, Marijuana and Inhalant Use Differ for AI and White Students Attending Schools on or Near Reservations?

Young (8th grade) AI students report having more peer models for alcohol use compared to White students who attend the same schools. For marijuana, however, 12th grade AI students report fewer peer models compared to White students. (More)

Swaim, R.C., Stanley, L.R., & Beauvais, F. (2013).   The normative environment for substance use among American Indian students and White students attending schools on or near reservations. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 83, 422-429.


Do Outcome Expectancies, Peer Injunctive Norms, and Adult Injunctive Norms Alter the Effects of Descriptive Norms on Substance Use Among AI and White Students?

Among all students with high levels of reported peer use, positive outcome expectancies amplify the effect of peer models on levels of use. Similar moderating effects of peer injunctive norms operate for marijuana, but not inhalant use. (More)

Dieterich, S.E., Swaim, R.C., & Beauvais, F. (2013). The normative environment for drug use:  Comparisons among American Indian and White adolescents. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 12, 1-17.


Do Specific Types of Outcome Expectancies Moderate the Relationship Between Descriptive Norms and Alcohol Use Among American AI and White Students Living On or Near Reservations?

Descriptive norms and perceived benefits to self increase the likelihood of all forms of alcohol use among both AI and White students. Anticipatory socialization is not significantly related to levels of alcohol use, and perceived benefits to self moderates the relationship between descriptive norms and last month alcohol use and binge drinking. (More)

Dieterich, S.E., Stanley, L.R., Swaim, R.C., & Beauvais, F. (2013). Outcome expectancies, descriptive norms, and alcohol use: American Indian and White adolescents. Journal of Primary Prevention, 34, 209-219.