American Indians who believe in a false stereotype about their vulnerability to alcohol may be at higher risk for problematic drinking

Newswise – American Indians who believe in a myth falsely implying that they are biogenetically predisposed to binge drinking may experience more thirst for alcohol, more frequent drinking, and worse alcohol-related consequences than those who do not believe this myth, according to a new study in Alcoholism: clinical and experimental research. American Indians and Alaskan Native Americans (NAIs) have higher rates of abstinence from alcohol than non-natives in the United States, but also higher rates of substance use disorders. alcohol (AUD) among AIAN who drink. Research has attributed problematic alcohol use in this population to social determinants of health (including poverty and unemployment), discrimination and historical trauma. No evidence involved biological or genetic factors. Yet the myth of a biogenetic predisposition affecting American Indians is widespread, although the high rate of AUD among white Americans, on the other hand, is not attributed to such factors. Previous research involving students at AIAN College has suggested that belief in this myth contributes to worse outcomes, such as heightening their temptation to drink or eroding their confidence in their ability to resist alcohol. For the new study, investigators examined links between belief in biogenetic vulnerability and the consequences of alcohol and substance use among American Indian adults who lived on a reservation and identified themselves as having problems. substance use.

The researchers worked with 141 Native American adults identified as having a substance abuse problem and who had consumed alcohol in the previous 90 days. Participants were interviewed and completed questionnaires assessing their alcohol and substance use and consequences, as well as envy, self-efficacy (confidence in their ability to moderate their alcohol or drug use) and belief in the biogenetic determinants of alcohol problems in NAIAs. The researchers used statistical analysis to look for associations between these factors, comparing participants who used alcohol only to those who also used hard drugs (eg, methamphetamine, opioids).

Sixty percent of the participants expressed some belief in the myth of the biogenetic determinant. Among those who consumed alcohol only, a growing belief in the myth was associated with greater craving and more frequent alcohol consumption; an increased frequency of alcohol consumption was in turn linked to more serious alcohol-related consequences. Among those who used alcohol and hard drugs, belief in the myth was associated with fewer days of alcohol use. But these participants also experienced lower self-efficacy, greater urge to smoke, and worse consequences of substance use, suggesting that any potentially positive effects of their belief were mild. For all participants, lower self-efficacy was associated with more frequent alcohol consumption. Belief in myth was not associated with self-efficacy, however, perhaps because adults’ perceptions of their ability to moderate their alcohol consumption was more influenced by other factors, such as personal struggles with alcohol.

The myth of a biogenetic “cause” could incorrectly imply that problematic alcohol use is predestined and incurable, contributing to worse outcomes. The association between this belief and frequency of use was found among AIAN participants who consumed alcohol only, and not among those who also used hard drugs. In both groups, however, belief in the myth was linked to the urge to smoke, which may hamper recovery efforts. The researchers cautioned that the study does not reliably identify the causes of substance use and recommended that future research examine how changing belief in this myth affects alcohol-related outcomes.

Belief in the myth of an American Indian / Alaska Native’s biological vulnerability to alcohol problems among on-reserve participants with substance use problems. V. Gonzalez, M. Skewes. (pp xxx)


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