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Urban American Indian Youth who Adopt Traditional Spiritual Beliefs Less Likely to Misuse Drugs and Alcohol


Results of a new research study by social scientists at Arizona State University were recently presented at the 107th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

The study which is published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse offers evidence that urban American Indian youth who embrace traditional American Indian spirituality are better equipped to resist drugs and alcohol.

The authors of the study titled "Spirituality and Religion: Intertwined Protective Factors for Substance Use among Urban American Youth" note that the most American Indians now reside in cities as opposed to tribal communities. They also point out that spirituality in American Indian culture is not separated from daily life, but comprises an important aspect intertwined within everyday life.

Observance of American Indian beliefs strong predictor of anti-drug sentiments and lower levels of use

The researchers gathered information from American Indian students attending five urban middle schools located within a large south western city in the U.S. The study which took place in 2009, involved 123 participants with an average age of 12.6 years.

Study results indicated that those students who followed traditional American Indian beliefs were more likely to express strong anti-drug sentiments, and less prone to use drugs and alcohol. However, this was not necessarily the case among those students who expressed a general sense of spirituality.

In fact, those students who were least likely to misuse drugs were connected to the Native American Church and adhering to Christian beliefs.

Importance of traditional beliefs, rituals, and ceremonies specific to American Indian culture

The researchers also stressed the importance of incorporating traditional American Indian beliefs, rituals, and ceremonies as a means for urban American Indian youth to adapt to change, integrate various cultural elements from different tribes, and introduce elements of Western religion. These factors were all considered protective against alcohol and drug abuse, as well as encouraging a sense of belonging in the urban environment in which these young people are living.

Source: Medical News Today