Native Americans

& Inhalants Essay, Research Paper For a long time, Native Americans have had problems with substance abuse. They are among the highest of all ethnic groups in drug abuse with an estimated 7.8% prevalence of a need for drug treatment. Some

& Inhalants Essay, Research Paper

For a long time, Native Americans have had problems with substance abuse. They are among the highest

of all ethnic groups in drug abuse with an estimated 7.8% prevalence of a need for drug treatment. Some

of these substances include alcohol, marijuana, crank, cocaine, LSD, and inhalants.

Inhalants include gases and sniffing drugs which can be found in household items as common as

glue, nail polish, and spray whipped cream. The prolonged use of these solvents entails significant risk of

brain damage, while other serious health problems observed in chronic sniffers include respiratory

difficulties; liver malfunction; blood abnormalities; and nervous system damage. Other hazards may

include Sudden Sniffing Death, violent or aggressive behavior, suffocation, burns and freezing to death,

and fetal solvent syndrome. Unfortunately, laws prohibiting sale of these products, especially to minors,

are difficult to enforce.

Because many inhalants are ordinary products which are simply misused, they are readily available

and relatively cheap. As a result, many people, adolescents in particular, have taken advantage of solvents

and are using them to get an easy high. The most common ethnic groups to use inhalants, besides

Caucasians, are Hispanics and Native Americans, making teenage Native Americans primary sniffers. In

addition, unlike most other ethnic groups, female American Indians are just as likely to inhale as their

male counterparts.

Two examples of this use of inhalants among Indian tribes occurred in North Dakota, where a

group of Lakota teenagers used Wite-Out, a correctional fluid, to paint the insides of their noses in order

to achieve a high. Another boy from the same area was smoking and inhaling a flammable intoxicant with

friends when the intoxicant caught fire and produced a flame which followed the trail of the intoxicant

down the boy’s throat.

In Placer County, a case study was done on 62 women of the Maidu and Miwok tribes on drug and

alcohol awareness. Of the women, who ranged in age from 17 to 36, 15 % used sniffing drugs and 6%

inhaled gas daily. Their reasons for using inhalants and other drugs were to socialize with friends, feel

more energetic, and forget painful experiences.

Other proven causes of solvent abuse include multiple personal and social problems; poor

adjustment to work environments; multi-problem and disrupted families; varied socioeconomic

conditions; impoverished, marginal or ghetto situations; and parental alcohol/drug abuse, all of which

exist in the miserable conditions of reservation life.

Teenagers of dysfunctional families may be more likely to engage in inhalant use because they

accept violence and substance abuse as parts of their lives. If their parents have a weak influence on them

or do not discourage drug use because they practice it themselves, their children are far more likely to

develop a problem. This is true of tribal Native Americans, who practically all take in alcohol and use

drugs, even for religious reasons, such as peyote.

Also, although it crosses all socio-economic boundaries, inhalant abuse is more prevalent among

the poor. Studies have shown solvent use is highest where poverty, prejudice and lack of opportunity are

common. Many Indian reservations are indigent and pitiable, with inhabitants who feel hopeless and

unsure of their futures because discrimination and status are holding them back. “Not fitting in with the

white world.” has often been quoted as a reason for drug use.

Perhaps another reason for the use of inhalants by adolescents is the lack of anything better to do.

Many Native American teenagers are bored with their life and their situation and are very likely to hold

membership in drug-using peer clusters, who see solvents as a cheap, quick, and easy rush. Even worse,

targeted education and awareness programs are usually unavailable in many schools and communities, so

young people are generally unaware of the consequences of using inhalants.

In the last decade, efforts have been made by both the American and Canadian governments to set

up American Indian youth treatment centers which would house sniffers, ages 12 to 25, for up to 6

months, while treating them with spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental therapy. They would also

form an outreach program that would pay visits to Indian reservations. While these facilities have been

successful so far, many Native American adults have said that they would never participate in a treatment

program due to fears about confidentiality, having their children involuntarily removed from the home,

and low success rates of programs among friends and neighbors.

As inhalant rates among Native Americans and worldwide continue to rise, hopefully, awareness

of these toxins and their deadly effects will soar as well.