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Native Americans With Co-occurring Disorders

by James Heller 10. April 2009 14:40
April, 2009 marks the 22nd year of Alcohol Awareness Month.  

Tarzana Treatment Centers is participating with a series of articles meant to inform and educate the general public about alcohol abuse, dependence and treatment.  Considering that over 21 million Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse and over 53 million admit to past-month binge drinking, not to mention the many loved ones affected by each, our efforts are worthwhile.


Add mental health issues to drug or alcohol dependence, and you get what is clinically known as “co-occurring disorders”.  Patients with co-occurring disorders must receive mental health services along with addiction counseling when in alcohol or drug treatment.

There is a high rate of alcoholism and drug addiction, and mental health issues, within the Native American community.  And co-occurring disorders are at a higher level for Native Americans than with the general population.  The good news is that more are seeking treatment as more detailed diagnoses are being made.  The bad news is that treatment outcomes are being hindered due to the lack cultural understanding.

The problem is that most alcohol and drug treatment centers do not consider the importance of culture, tradition, and ceremony for Native American patients.  When tradition and ceremony are at the very core of a person’s existence, alcohol and drug treatment must include those elements.  Lacking these factors practically makes treatment a waste of time for the patient and the treatment center staff.  

Tarzana Treatment Centers is one of the few in alcohol and drug treatment that provides specialized practices for Native Americans.  We also maintain close contact with organizations who work for Native American progress.  And we attend events, like pow wows, to stay informed by the community and in turn to educate and inform the community about alcohol and drug detox and treatment.

The article excerpt below is from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  It is from a speech that was given about the importance of cultural considerations in treating mental illness.

-- Begin external content –

Cultural competency must be part of the solution to every mental health challenge confronting American Indian and Alaska Native communities. A primary challenge is substance abuse, which is closely linked with mental health disorders. Compared to other cultural and ethnic groups, American Indians and Alaska Natives are disproportionately affected by diseases and death due to alcohol and other substance abuse. They also appear more vulnerable to mental illnesses. According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest incidence of serious mental illnesses compared to other groups.

Substance abuse and mental health disorders are real and disabling conditions. Research and practice is revealing that the two disorders frequently overlap. If left untreated—or if only one disorder is treated, both disorders usually get worse. Additional complications often arise. These complications include the risk for physical health problems, unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, separation from families and friends, premature death, and suicide. The toll on families, schools, communities, and the workplace is more than any society can afford.

-- Source: http://mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/newsroom/speeches/060706.asp --

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  The external content was found among other articles of equal informational and educational quality.

Native American Years of Potential Life Lost

by James Heller 7. April 2009 08:50
April, 2009 marks the 22nd year of Alcohol Awareness Month.  

Tarzana Treatment Centers is participating with a series of articles meant to inform and educate the general public about alcohol abuse, dependence and treatment.  Considering that over 21 million Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse and over 53 million admit to past-month binge drinking, not to mention the many loved ones affected by each, our efforts are worthwhile.


How can 54,571 years be lost in 4 years? When it comes to the Native American and Alaskan Native communities of the U.S., just add alcohol.

It is common knowledge that alcohol abuse and dependence takes its toll on Native Americans in many ways.  Looking at the years of potential life lost to alcohol paints an emotionally painful picture compared to simple crime and death statistics.  Hopefully this will motivate more Native Americans to seek alcohol detox and treatment.  

Consider that a Native American has an approximate average life expectancy of 75 years.  When that age is not reached, simply stated, the age of death is subtracted from the average life expectancy to get the years of potential life lost.  While it is impossible to determine the actual amount of years a person would have lived, it is reasonable to use this formula to express the impact of unnatural causes of death like those attributed to alcoholism and alcohol abuse.

Even as a potential approximation, reported by the US Centers for Disease Control, 54,571 years is a staggering number.  Divide that number by the 1514 alcohol-attributable deaths reported among Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, and we get about 36 years of potential life lost per person.  It is 43 years if we remove chronic causes, and only use the numbers relating to traffic accidents, alcohol poisoning, homicide, suicide, and other acute causes of death.

Culture-specific alcohol detox and treatment for Native Americans, like at Tarzana Treatment Centers, can serve to not only reduce the amount of living years lost for Native Americans, but it can increase the amount of quality living in the years to come.  

The table below from the US Centers for Disease Control details the data from its 2006 report.

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-- Source: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5734a3.htm --

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  The external content was found among other articles of equal informational and educational quality.