Alcohol & Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse

Inflated rates of substance abuse plague tribal communities; and unfortunately, it is something Native people and tribes have been battling for years. Many Native families are suffering from generational abuse, eroding traditional values and destabilizing families.

In terms of resources, substance abuse has a significant impact on law enforcement and health prevention. Already limited law enforcement resources are further exacerbated by responding to substance abuse-related calls. In addition, many tribal communities are targeted by non-Indians as centers for distribution because of their geographic isolation and persistent poverty. Substance abuse also increases overall health-care costs in tribal communities, where recovery treatment is largely unavailable, and access to primary care is limited.

NCAI works collaboratively with national tribal and non-tribal organizations to strengthen community wellness, law-enforcement practices, access to substance abuse treatment, and prevention methods.


Suicide is often the result of the failure to treat such problems as depression, alcoholism, and domestic violence—all of which occur at higher rates in Native communities. Although mental health and substance abuse services do exist, they are extraordinarily under-funded and thus severely limited. The lack of services and the inadequate number of culturally competent providers are issues that must be addressed. As these problems increase, the gap between the prevalence of these disorders and the number of providers trained to meet the growing need of mental health services increases significantly.

Suicide has quickly become an epidemic in some tribal nations. At rates of 2.5 times the national average, suicide has become the second-leading cause of death for Native youth aged 15–24. As a result, NCAI launched the Indian Country Suicide Task Force. The Task Force has brought together our sister organizations and federal partners who are working to reduce and prevent the incidence of suicide in our communities. Task Force members are working to develop a national tribal guide to prevention and education programs and grant opportunities. Additionally, the group monitors legislation for opportunities to increase resources for our communities.


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