Understanding opioid use within a Southwestern American Indian Reservation Community: A qualitative study

Emma Waugh, Jerreed Ivanich, Victoria O'Keefe, Jason Usher, Emily Haroz, Novalene Goklish, Gloria Kastler, Paul Nestadt, Mary Cwik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Morbidity and mortality due to nonprescription use of opioids has been well documented following the significant increase in the availability of prescription opioids in the early 2000s. The aim of this paper is to explore community beliefs about correlates of opioid risk, protective factors, and behavioral functions of opioid misuse among American Indian youth and young adults living on or near a reservation. Methods: Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with N = 18 youth and young adults who were enrolled in a parent research trial focused on American Indian youth suicide prevention. Participants were eligible if they endorsed the use of opioids themselves or by close friends or family members at any point during their trial participation. Findings: Major themes discussed include: (1) description of opioid use and those who use opioids; (2) acquisition; (3) initiation; (4) motivation to continue using; (5) consequences; and (6) possibilities for intervention. Family played an important role in the initiation of use, but was also highlighted as an important factor in treatment and recovery. A need for upstream prevention methods, including increased employment and after-school activities, was described. Conclusions: The insights gained through this work could help to inform treatment and prevention programs in the community. This work is timely due to the pressing urgency of the opioid epidemic nationally, and community capacity to address opioid use locally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-185
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Rural Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • American Indian
  • opioids
  • qualitative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding opioid use within a Southwestern American Indian Reservation Community: A qualitative study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this