Rates of substance use of American Indian students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades living on or near reservations: update, 2009-2012

Public Health Rep. 2014 Mar-Apr;129(2):156-63. doi: 10.1177/003335491412900209.


Objectives: Understanding the similarities and differences between substance use rates for American Indian (AI) young people and young people nationally can better inform prevention and treatment efforts. We compared substance use rates for a large sample of AI students living on or near reservations for the years 2009-2012 with national prevalence rates from Monitoring the Future (MTF).

Methods: We identified and sampled schools on or near AI reservations by region; 1,399 students in sampled schools were administered the American Drug and Alcohol Survey. We computed lifetime, annual, and last-month prevalence measures by grade and compared them with MTF results for the same time period.

Results: Prevalence rates for AI students were significantly higher than national rates for nearly all substances, especially for 8th graders. Rates of marijuana use were very high, with lifetime use higher than 50% for all grade groups. Other findings of interest included higher binge drinking rates and OxyContin(®) use for AI students.

Conclusions: The results from this study demonstrate that adolescent substance use is still a major problem among reservation-based AI adolescent students, especially 8th graders, where prevalence rates were sometimes dramatically higher than MTF rates. Given the high rates of substance use-related problems on reservations, such as academic failure, delinquency, violent criminal behavior, suicidality, and alcohol-related mortality, the costs to members of this population and to society will continue to be much too high until a comprehensive understanding of the root causes of substance use are established.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology*
  • United States / epidemiology