STATE OF AFFAIRS: One in 4 Children on Nebraska Indian Reservation Born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Four Stores Sell Nearly 4 Million Cans of Beer Annually
LINCOLN, Nebraska – According to a recent report, it’s estimated that one out of every 4 children on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the Cornhusker State are born with fetal alcohol syndrome. That’s in comparison to an estimated one in every 100 nationally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say about 3.3 million females in the U.S. between the ages of 15-44 are drinking and sexually active, but not using birth control to prevent pregnancy. Recently, the CDC recommended all women avoid alcohol unless they’re using contraceptives.
While Pine Ridge is an officially “dry” reservation, alcoholism rates are estimated at over 80%, and right next door in Whiteclay, each of the 4 stores sell an estimated 1 million cans of beer annually. Last year, 38 million barrels of Bud Light were sold in the U.S., which equates to one out of every 5 beers sold.
Activists have been calling for the stores to be shut down because of the alcoholism rates on the reservation for nearly two decades, and claim the stores are preying on the reservation because it cannot legally be consumed there. The stores have been accused of selling to drunk customers, and selling beer on credit in exchange for food stamps or sex.
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are not the only group of Native Americans under attack. Hepatitis C infection rates among the Cherokee Nation are nearly 5 times higher than any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S., and experts attribute the high rates largely to intravenous drug use. Cherokee officials in Oklahoma have begun working with Universities and State Departments to implement a Hep C elimination program. Last year the FDA approved a new class of medications for the diagnosis which have a 90% cure rate. So far, the program has treated nearly 300 Hep C patients, and 96% of those are now cured.
The Lincoln Star Journal reported that because of the state’s inadequate prescription tracking system, people from 38 states (including around 300 from Florida) come to Nebraska to fill their prescriptions for narcotics. Pain specialists in the state often give patients MRIs or CT scans to see if indications of pain match up with the tests. Experts say patients addicted will show psychosomatic pains that don’t match their physical condition.
The State Department of Health and Human Services reported that from January to July of last year, 84 drug overdose deaths were reported, and the majority of them were caused by opioids.
While most of Nebraska as a whole has drug and alcoholism stats that are below the national average, the state accounts for 1% of the calls nationwide into the Vertava Health call center. The calls are split, with around 50% naming alcohol as their primary drug of choice, while the other half battle heroin or other opiates.
In Nebraska, over one in 5 high school students reported drinking alcohol in the past month, which is close to the national average of 20.8%. Binge drinking for adults, however, was higher than the national average. 20.3% of grown ups in the state reported binge drinking within the last month. Nebraska adults were more likely than the rest of the nation to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence, at 2.5%.
Depression is on the rise as well in the state. One in 15 reported a battle with the mental illness last year, and 220 deaths were attributed to suicide in Nebraska.
The Presidential campaign has taken up drug use in general to fight opiate addiction, especially since New Hampshire demanded help. Many people, and even candidates on both sides of the political aisle, are calling for the legalization of marijuana in order to fight the opioid epidemic. Vertava Health will be monitoring the situation on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and keep you updated on the issues that affect addiction and treatment not only in Nebraska, but in the rest of the country.