Northern Plains American Indians: Reasons for Alcohol- and Drug-Related Hospitalizations

Newswise — American Indians who drink alcohol are often collectively characterized as having greater risks for alcohol problems, alcohol misuse, and alcohol-use disorders. Indeed, despite high abstinence rates, American Indians experience elevated rates of many alcohol and other drug problems. However, American Indians also predominantly reside in poor and rural areas. This study investigated whether geographic areas that included reservations or large American Indian populations had greater incidences of alcohol- and drug-related hospitalizations.

Researchers analyzed inpatient hospitalization records for two Northern Plains states (Nebraska and South Dakota) for 2007 - 2012.  They examined zip-code counts for 10 categories of hospitalization for diagnoses or injuries commonly associated with alcohol or drug use, relating them to community sociodemographic characteristics, and examining whether they were located within an American Indian reservation.

The percentage of American Indian residents alone did not account for observed patterns of alcohol- and drug-related hospitalizations across areas. Although there was a greater incidence of all 10 substance-abuse-related health outcomes in zip codes with a higher percentage of American Indians, the authors noted that the analyses failed to show well supported differences with other groups such as African Americans. The authors suggested that social, economic, and political dimensions of Native American life be considered when examining the development of alcohol- and drug-related problems among rural-dwelling indigenous people.