The Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research (TEC) has been funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to track the substance use of American Indian (AI) youth who live on or near AI reservations since 1974. Over more than 40 years, our data, along with that of others show consistently that among all U.S. ethnic minority groups, AI adolescents report the highest levels of substance use. Moreover, reservation-based AI youth have been found to have higher substance use and other related problems than non-reservation AI youth. Through systematic tracking of annual substance use of AI youth, we have been able to identify key trends that have marked significant reductions in levels of use as well as periods of marked increase. Ongoing surveillance allows continued monitoring of significant trends that are critical for targeting both prevention and intervention efforts, both being vitally important given that substance use related problems, such as academic failure, delinquency, violent criminal behavior, suicidality, and especially for AI males, drinking-related arrests and alcohol-related mortality, are disproportionately high on most reservations.
In addition to our annual tracking of substance use epidemiology, we have also investigated the etiology of AI adolescent substance use and associated correlates of use, along with theory development and other topics relevant to the investigation of substance use among this group. Our investigations of the etiology and associated correlates of use have shown that there are both commonalities and differences in substance use etiology and risk between AI and non-AI youth, leading to theory development and other topics relevant to the investigation of substance use among this and other ethnic minority groups.
Be Under Your Own Influence (BUYOI) is a communications campaign designed to prevent substance use in middle-school students. This online version has been specifically designed for American Indian youth.
BUYOI begins with the premise that one of the main tasks of adolescence is achieving greater independence and personal autonomy. Some adolescents see using drugs and alcohol as a way to be rebellious and independent. The BUYOI campaign turns this around to reframe substance use as an action that is inconsistent with both personal autonomy and being able to achieve one’s goals and aspirations. Its goal is to empower youth to make their own good decisions when it comes to using drugs and alcohol.
High school students, serving as role models to the younger youth, are at the heart of this intervention. They deliver campaign messages through various activities that emphasize their own non-use as an expression of their personal identity and as vital to achieving their aspirations. These local high school students literally become the faces of the campaign.
The Community Readiness Model was developed at the Tri-Ethnic Center to assess how ready a community is to address an issue. The basic premise is that matching an intervention to a community’s level of readiness is absolutely essential for success. Efforts that are too ambitious are likely to fail because community members will not be ready or able to respond. To maximize chances for success, the Community Readiness Model offers tools to measure readiness and to develop stage-appropriate strategies.