How Does Substance Use by American Indian Teens Compare to Other Adolescents?

Bottom Line: American Indian teenagers living on or near reservations are more likely to use alcohol, marijuana and other drugs than other U.S. adolescents.

Why The Research Is Interesting: American Indian youth have historically reported higher levels of substance use. High rates of substance use by these young people are associated with increasing rates in later adulthood and the risk of substance use disorder and alcohol-related problems, including death. Tracking substance use among American Indian adolescents over time can help guide prevention and treatment efforts.

Who and When: 1,660 students in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades attending schools on or near reservations during the 2016-2017 school year.

What (Study Measures): Lifetime and past 30-day self-reported use of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs by American Indian youth compared with a nationally representative sample of U.S. adolescents

How (Study Design): This was a population-based survey study.

Authors: Randall C. Swaim, Ph.D., and Linda R. Stanley, Ph.D., of Colorado State University, Fort Collins

Results: American Indian teenagers reported higher lifetime and past 30-day substance use rates than other adolescents, with the biggest disparity in 8th grade where American Indian youth were more likely to report using alcohol, marijuana and other illicit drugs.

Study Limitations: School participation in the survey was voluntary; student participation in the survey at each school was not 100 percent (87 percent); and the study likely underestimates substance use rates for adolescents in the 10th and 12th grades because there is a high dropout rate among American Indian youth.

Study Conclusions:


Related Material: The invited commentary, “Substance Use Among American Indian Youths Today: A Threat to Our Future,” by Spero M. Manson, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado, also is available on the For The Media website.


To Learn More: The full study is available on the For The Media website.