The “drunken Indian” stereotype and been a disgraceful slur levied against Native Americans for centuries. But a new study at the University of Arizona has debunked the long-held view that American Indians have a uniquely high rate of use and abuse.
Researchers found that the rate of binge and heavy drinking is the same for Indians and whites. There was a major area of difference, however: Indians are more likely to abstain from alcohol altogether than are whites. The study appears in the Feb. 8 edition of the peer-reviewed journal, Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The researchers examined data from a survey of more than 4,000 Native Americans and 170,000 whites between 2009 and 2013. They found that about 17 percent of both Indians and whites were binge drinkers (five or more drinks on one to four days in the previous month). About 8 percent of both groups were heavy drinkers (five or more drinks on five or more days in the previous month). But 60 percent of Indians reported no alcohol use in the past month, compared to 43 percent of whites.
James K. Cunningham, the lead author of the study, said: "Of course, debunking a stereotype doesn't mean that alcohol problems don't exist. All major U.S. racial and ethnic groups face problems due to alcohol abuse, and alcohol use within those groups can vary with geographic location, age and gender.”