Alcoholism and co-morbid psychiatric disorders among American Indians

Joseph Westermeyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Much of the data reported here regarding American Indian (AI) people has originated from specific areas with particular peoples. Thus, one must be cautious in applying information from one tribe to the hundreds of tribes living across the United States. As with any people, psychiatric disorder may be a pre-existing rationale for using alcohol. Or alternatively, alcohol may lead to various psychiatric disorders, such as organic mental conditions, posttraumatic stress disorder, or other conditions. A third alternative is that both alcoholism and other psychiatric disorder merely happen to affect the same person by chance. Recognizing alcoholism and treating it in a timely manner before disabling or even permanent psychiatric disorders ensue are key strategies. In addition, clinicians must be able to recognize and then either treat or refer co-morbid patients for appropriate care. Some psychiatric disorders, such as panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and various organic mental disorders may occur more often in some AI groups. Other co-morbid conditions, such as eating disorders, may occur less often among AI patients with alcoholism. It could be argued that resources should go solely to preventive efforts, thereby negating the need for psychiatric services. However, successful prevention of alcoholism may hinge upon, and increase the need for greater psychiatric services in AI communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-51
Number of pages25
JournalAmerican Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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