Exploring binge drinking and drug use among American Indians: Data from adolescent focus groups

Lauren Tingey, Mary Cwik, Novalene Goklish, Melanie Alchesay, Angelita Lee, Rachel Strom, Rosemarie Suttle, John Walkup, Allison Barlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Risk factors for binge substance use and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) are similar, suggesting the importance of exploring how binge substance use and self-injury interrelate. Objectives: 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. Methods: 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. Results: 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. Conclusion: 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. Scientific Significance: Understanding possible shared root causes and functions of binge substance use and self-injury may advance integrated prevention approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-415
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • American Indian
  • Binge substance use
  • Non-suicidal self-injury
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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