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Native American Drug and Alcohol Rehabs

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 6, 2019

Native American culture is no stranger to the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction. However, there is hope. Native American drug and alcohol rehabilitation is becoming a widespread phenomenon and one that looks to help restore some luster to their culture.

Addiction’s Impact On Native Culture

The unfortunate truth is that Native Americans suffer from drug and alcohol addiction at a very alarming rate. Although Native Americans make up less than 5 percent of the total population of the country, 10 percent of them suffer from alcoholism and other forms of serious addiction. This problem is specifically problematic in men, though it has impacted women too.

In fact, Alaskan native women suffer from a fetal alcohol syndrome rate that is nearly four times higher than non-native women. Even more troubling, almost 12 percent of all native deaths can be attributed to alcohol in one way or another. These statistics are compounded by the fact that natives are also more likely to be involved in drug-related crimes, such as trafficking or selling.

Although the severity of these statistics will vary depending on the state and tribe, they paint an unfortunate picture. While there are many highly successful native people, addiction is heavily impacting and seriously affecting a group of people who have already suffered from so much heartache.

Successful Past Treatments

Thankfully, great strides are being taken to help address this epidemic and to curb the rise of addiction in Native Americans. A variety of studies and treatments have been undertaken, including a report by the Department of Justice that examined nine different programs successful in treating native addiction.

One of the most popular of these methods was youth programs, which focus on intervention and education. These groups travel to tribal schools and discuss the dangers of addiction in an open and frank manner. Much of the focus of these groups is on breaking the drug myths created by their older peers, myths that help perpetuate a dangerous and increasing drug problem.

However, rehabilitation proved to be one of the most successful of all treatment methods. Traditional rehabilitation treatments, such as detoxification and cognitive behavioral therapy, are utilized in Native American rehabs across the country. And when combined with traditional native remedies and spiritual concepts, it has proven to be the best weapon in the fight against addiction amongst Native American peoples.

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Tapping Into Native Spirituality

If you are into traditional native religions and spirituality, Native American rehab centers can help you utilize that faith in your recovery. In fact, the concept of “holistic” treatment fits very neatly into the spiritual concept of earth medicine that drives many native religions. Although the exact nature of your religion will vary depending on your tribe, Native American rehab centers are able to adjust to meet everyone’s personal beliefs.

One of the most popular forms of Native American rehab for this very reason is wilderness recovery. This treatment method places you in the wild and forces you to make your way with a group of other people recovering from addiction. A native wilderness rehab will focus on traditional native ceremonies, earth medicine, and holistic concepts, such as dance therapy, music therapy, and even the creation of traditional native art.

Even if your religious interest lies outside of your tribal faith (such as in a Christian religion), you can still find a center that caters to your spirituality. Rehabilitation has a long history of utilizing spiritual techniques and guidance in treating addiction. Giving yourself up to a higher power often helps guide people through the difficult process of obtaining sobriety.

Typical Treatment Schedule

Treatment in a Native American rehab center follows a pattern that is similar to most rehabs. First, you’ll go through physical detoxification in order to lower the severity of your withdrawal symptoms. For some, this is a hard process, due to the genetic predisposition many tribes have towards severe alcoholism. However, medical help will ease you through the process and minimize your pain.

After you have finished detoxification, steps will be taken to ensure you return to proper physical and mental health. A strict and healthy diet is likely to be required, although traditional native options may be available. This will help you recover your strength and general health. Then, you will be assessed and treated for any underlying mental concerns that may plague you and contribute to your addiction.

Native Options Are Available Across The Nation

Native American drug addiction is a concern that spirals past tribal culture and should concern every person proud to call themselves a true American. If you or someone you know is suffering from drug addiction and needs help, please contact us at to find a Native American rehab center near you.

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