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October 2021

Subst Use Misuse. 1998 Nov; 33(13): 2605-46.

Traditional and western healing practices for alcoholism in American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Abbott PJ.

Department of Psychiatry, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque 87106, USA.

The American Indian and Alaska Native population is a culturally diverse population with a current census of 1,959,000. Prior to White contact, there was historically little use of alcoholic beverages except for American Indians in the Southwest. After White contact, use and misuse of alcohol escalated rapidly; however, the prevalence, patterns, and problems of drinking alcoholic beverages vary enormously even in tribes closely linked geographically. American Indians and Alaska Natives have preserved and revitalized a number of traditional healing practices and applied these to the treatment of alcohol-related problems. These healing practices include the following: nativistic movements, sacred dances, sweat lodges, talking circle, four circles, and cultural enhancement programs. Additionally, Western treatment approaches have been applied in the treatment of problems related to alcohol, such as medication for detoxification, disulfiram (Antabuse), Alcoholics Anonymous, and behavioral interventions. Several investigators have completed a small number of naturalistic follow-up studies, but no one has undertaken a randomized controlled trial looking at specific methods of alcohol treatment in American Indians or Alaska Natives. American Indian and Alaska Native communities have adapted and integrated both Traditional and Western approaches to fit their own unique sociocultural needs.

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