Researchers study alcohol use in tribal communities

Staff Writer

With support from a five-year, $7.1 million grant, a new national research center is working to identify treatments and reduce alcohol abuse among American Indian populations.
The Washington State University center’s researchers are working with tribal leaders to test the effectiveness of three interventions:
1. A culturally adapted intervention to reduce risky drinking and increase contraception use to prevent alcohol-exposed pregnancies in South Dakota.
2. A talking circle intervention to reduce harmful behaviors and improve quality of life and health care use at a Seattle-based clinic.
3. A combination of motivational interviewing and patient navigation to increase enrollment in outpatient alcohol treatment programs and prevent readmissions for detox treatment in Fairbanks, Alaska.
The Native Center for Alcohol Research and Education combines faculty and resources at WSU, University of Colorado-Denver and University of Washington.
The group also will provide junior researchers with grants of up to $40,000 per year for pilot projects related to alcohol use and abuse in tribal communities.
Tribal members who do drink alcohol are more likely to engage in heavy and binge drinking, said Dedra Buchwald, a professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and director of the WSU Initiative for Research and Education to Advance Community Health. Combined with reduced access to behavioral health care services, this tendency toward excessive drinking has contributed to high rates of liver disease, birth defects caused by fetal alcohol exposure, homelessness, unemployment and other issues.
“We have been describing alcohol abuse in Native communities for decades,” Buchwald said. “It’s time to start developing the types of interventions that are needed and acceptable in these settings so we can ultimately end the alcohol-related devastation experienced by some American Indian and Alaska Native communities.”