Compared to other racial groups, Native Americans experience some of the highest rates of substance abuse, mental health disorders, violence, and suicide.1 The cultural and spiritual beliefs of American Indians and Alaska Natives, as well as the historical trauma suffered by people who identify with these ethnic groups, require special considerations to be taken in the treatment of addiction and other mental health conditions. Understanding the needs of this demographic is critical to finding effective rehab services and achieving lasting recovery.
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American Indians and Alaska Natives face an increased risk of substance abuse and addiction given their history in the United States. Forced relocations, broken treaties, and other political injustices have disproportionately affected this ethnic minority. High rates of historical trauma, violence, racism, loss, legalized segregation, isolation, and discrimination in native communities place these people at an increased risk for alcohol and drug abuse.
Historical trauma (HT) refers to the emotional and psychological harm that cumulates across one’s lifespan and across multiple generations.8 HT can include individual and collective trauma; group trauma and can result in depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, unresolved grief, and substance abuse. People who experience HT may attempt to cope with painful feelings by self-medicating with alcohol or other substances.
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