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April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Image of Margo Kerrigan
Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H, Area Director

Indian Health Service California Area Office

April is alcohol awareness month and, as many of you know, alcohol use has plagued our tribes for years.  Even today, with specialists and resources directly available for alcohol abuse, the problem continues to threaten the health and wellness of Indian communities.

The Behavioral Health Briefing Book reports almost 40% of American Indians aged 26-49 years have gone binge drinking within the past 30 days as compared to the national average of 28.9%.  In addition, American Indians are five times more likely than Caucasians to die of alcohol-related deaths.  Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are 100% preventable if women not drink alcohol during pregnancy.  However, American Indians have some of the highest rates of FASD in the United States (Behavioral Health Briefing Book, 2011).

Although American Indians suffer from alcohol addictions disproportionately, many of the tribal and urban Indian healthcare clinics practice innovative prevention and treatment programs especially designed for American Indians.  Alcohol addiction is not the underlying problem, but rather a symptom of a larger problem brought on by years of oppression and adverse childhood events.  For years, American Indians have suffered huge losses such as being removed from their home lands and relocated to urban areas or remote, isolated lands.  American Indian children were sent to boarding schools, never to see their parents, practice their religions, or speak their native languages again.    

American Indian clinics address addictions head-on and most clinicians working with people who suffer from addictions understand the symptoms of excessive drinking.  A couple of highly successful treatment modalities include “The Red Road to Wellbriety” and the “Medicine Wheel” to sobriety.  These programs work for our population and the curriculums provide hope and healing for people who suffer from addictions.  The tenets of both treatment programs are based on philosophies and practices of the Alcohol and Narcotic Anonymous 12-step program.  Both programs believe in the Supreme Spirit or “Creator” and encourage participants to respect one-self and each other.  Learning about one’s own culture and traditions is another proven modality for American Indians.

During the month of April, take time to recognize and thank substance abuse counselors and mental health workers.  Try to increase your knowledge and belief systems related to addictions.  It is important to understand that if a person relapses they are not failures; relapse is a part of the sobriety process.   

For more information, visit:

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings on line: Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) web site:  Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving
White Bison, Inc. Wellbriety Certified Treatment Centers: Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving