A study has tried to do away with the widely held belief that Native Americans are more likely to abuse alcohol than other groups, concluding Native Americans are more likely than white people not to drink at all, the Washington Post reported Friday.
Researchers from the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal concluded that Native Americans and whites have relatively comparable rates of binge and heavy drinking. Some 60 percent of the 4,000 Native Americans who responded to a federal survey from 2009 to 2013 said they didn’t drink alcohol at all in the previous month compared with 43 percent of the 170,000 whites queried, U.S. News and World Report reported.
The authors said the stereotype of the “drunken Indian” can have negative effects on the lives of Native Americans, including on employment and medical diagnoses. Researchers also said because some Native Americans can have limited access to healthcare and quality food, health problems that stem from alcohol can be amplified.
“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,” author James Cunningham said in a release.
Your Assumptions About Native Americans And Alcohol Are Wrong https://t.co/7Dqqd2QYHI
— Ye Padho (@YePadho) February 12, 2016
The theory that Native Americans are more susceptible to alcoholism stems from what is often called the “firewater” myth or fairytale, a narrative that suggests Europeans introduced Native Americans to alcohol during colonial times, and they were not prepared physically to handle it. According to this view, genetic makeup led to a higher number of deaths related to alcohol among Native Americans as well as a higher rate of alcoholism compared to whites. Scientists have said, however, there is little to no evidence Native Americans are genetically more susceptible to alcoholism.