Background: Evidence suggests that American Indian (AI) populations may be at increased risk for problems with alcohol, but a lack of community-based research using diagnostic criteria has constrained our ability to draw inferences about the extent of severe alcohol problems, such as dependence, in AI populations.
Methods: This article draws on data collected by the American Indian Service Utilization, Psychiatric Epidemiology, Risk and Protective Factors Project (AI-SUPERPFP), which involved interviews with 3084 AI people living on or near their reservations. The AI-SUPERPFP sample was drawn from two culturally distinct tribes, which were designated with geographical descriptions: Northern Plains (NP) and Southwest (SW). Comparisons with data collected by the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) were explored by using shared measures to situate the findings from AI-SUPERPFP in a national context.
Results: Lifetime rates of DSM-III-R alcohol dependence for men in both AI-SUPERPFP samples were 50% higher than those found in the NCS. Rates of lifetime alcohol dependence for women varied by sample, however; NP women had twice the rate of women in the NCS, but SW women had rates quite similar to those of NCS women. Patterns for 12-month alcohol dependence in AI-SUPERPFP were generally more similar to those found in NCS.
Conclusions: The rates of DSM-III-R alcohol dependence found in AI-SUPERPFP were generally higher than US averages and justify continued attention and concern to alcohol problems in AI communities, but they are not nearly as high as those in other reports in the literature that rely on less stringent sampling methods. Furthermore, significant sociocultural influences on the correlates of alcohol dependence in AI communities are evident in these data, underscoring the need to appreciate the complex and varying influences on the patterning of alcohol problems in the diverse cultural contexts of the US.