To gain insight from a sample of American Indian (AI) adolescents regarding how binge drinking and drug use function in their lives, including as overlapping forms of self-injury, and to identify community-based ideas for dual prevention strategies.
A total of N = 58 White Mountain Apache (Apache) adolescents participated in ten mixed gender (n = 33 males, 55.9%) focus group discussions. Results were interpreted and categorized by Apache researchers and compared to Nock’s behavioral model of NSSI.
Participants reported substance use most commonly with “family” and “friends,” “at a house,” or “around the community.” Substance use was not confined to a particular time of day, and often occurred “at school.” Commonly endorsed reasons fell into two main categories: “to avoid problems” or “to reduce negative feelings,” versus “to be cool” or “to feel part of a group.” All adolescents but one thought that some youths use substances excessively as a way to harm/injure themselves (n = 25 responses). Prevention approaches included encouraging healthy relationships, teaching about consequences of use, providing alternative recreation, and changing/enforcing laws on the reservation.
Tribal-specific data support the idea that binge substance use sometimes functions as a form of self-injury. Home/school environments are critical prevention settings, in addition to improved law enforcement and increased recreation.
Understanding possible shared root causes and functions of binge substance use and self-injury may advance integrated prevention approaches.
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