Utilizing drumming for American Indians/Alaska Natives with substance use disorders: a focus group study

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2012 Sep;38(5):505-10. doi: 10.3109/00952990.2012.699565.


Background: Drumming has been utilized among American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) tribes for centuries to promote healing and self-expression. Drum-Assisted Recovery Therapy for Native Americans (DARTNA), currently under development, is a substance abuse treatment utilizing drumming as a core component.

Objectives: Focus groups were conducted to assist in the development of the DARTNA protocol. Feedback obtained from these focus groups will inform a subsequent pretest of DARTNA and an empirical study analyzing its effectiveness.

Methods: Three focus groups were conducted among AIs/ANs with substance use disorders (n = 6), substance abuse treatment providers (n = 8), and a community advisory board (n = 4) to solicit feedback prior to a pretest of the DARTNA protocol.

Results: Overall, participants indicated that DARTNA could be beneficial for AIs/ANs with substance use disorders. Four overarching conceptual themes emerged across the focus groups: (1) benefits of drumming, (2) importance of a culture-based focus, (3) addressing gender roles in drumming activities, and (4) providing a foundation of common AI/AN traditions.

Conclusions: The DARTNA protocol is a potentially beneficial and culturally appropriate substance abuse treatment strategy for AIs/ANs. In order to optimize the potential benefits of a substance abuse treatment protocol utilizing drumming for AIs/ANs, adequate attention to tribal diversity and gender roles is needed.

Scientific significance: Due to the shortage of substance abuse treatments utilizing traditional healing activities for AIs/ANs, including drumming, results from this study provide an opportunity to develop an intervention that may meet the unique treatment needs of AIs/ANs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alaska / epidemiology
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Music Therapy / methods*
  • Sex Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • United States / epidemiology