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Traditional Practices, Traditional Spirituality, and Alcohol Cessation Among American Indians

Rosalie A. Torres Stone, Les B. Whitbeck, Xiaojin Chen, Kurt Johnson, Debbie M. Olson

Objective: The detrimental effects of alcohol misuse and dependence are well documented as an important public-health issue among American Indian adults. This preponderance of problem-centered research, however, has eclipsed some important resilience factors associated with life course patterns of American Indian alcohol use. In this study, we investigate the influence of enculturation, and each of the three component dimensions (traditional practices, traditional spirituality, and cultural identity) to provide a stringent evaluation of the specific mechanisms through which traditional culture affects alcohol cessation among American Indians. Method: These data were collected as part of a 3- year lagged sequential study currently underway on four American Indian reservations in the upper Midwest and five Canadian First Nation reserves. The sample consisted of 980 Native American adults, with 71% women and 29% men who are parents or guardians of youth ages 10- 12 years old. Logistic regression was used to assess the unique contribution of the indicators of alcohol cessation. Excluding adults who had no lifetime alcohol use, the total sample size for present analysis is 732 adult respondents. Results: The findings show that older adults, women, and married adults were more likely to have quit using alcohol. When we examined the individual components of enculturation, two of the three components (participation in traditional activities and traditional spirituality) had significantly positive effects on alcohol cessation. Conclusions: Although our findings provide empirical evidence that traditional practices and traditional spirituality play an important role in alcohol cessation, the data are cross-sectional and therefore do not indicate direction of effects. Longitudinal studies are warranted, in light of the work that concludes that cultural/spiritual issues may be more important in maintaining sobriety once it is established rather than initiating it. (J. Stud. Alcohol 67: 236-244, 2006)