Drinking Careers

Drinking Careers: A TwentyFive Year Study of Three Navajo Populations

Stephen J. Kunitz
Jerrold E. Levy
Tracy Andrews
Chena DuPuy
K. Ruben Gabriel
Scott Russell
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: Yale University Press
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  • Book Info
    Drinking Careers
    Book Description:

    In this book, the first longterm followup study of alcohol use among Native Americans, a physician and sociologist and an anthropologist examine the data on three groups of Navajos whom they first interviewed about their use of alcohol in 1966. The authors find verification for their initial hypothesis that young men who would have been classed as alcoholic often stop or moderate their drinking as they age. They also find that there is considerable diversity in patterns of alcohol use among both women and men.Stephen J. Kunitz and Jerrold E. Levy study the histories of those who have died as well as those who have survived since the first study was done. They show that, compared to those who have survived, the former were more likely to have been solitary drinkers and were on average younger at the time when they were first interviewed. The authors also present data for the entire Navajo population on changing mortality from alcoholrelated causes from the 1960s to the present; they compare alcoholrelated death rates among Navajos to those among rural Anglos in Arizona and New Mexico; they analyze two family histories-one of a family with severe alcohol problems, the other of a family with none-that illustrate how traditional patterns of wealth have shaped the way people have learned to use alcohol; they study the factors that may have led to the emergence of a solitary, unrestrained drinking style among some Navajos; and they describe the changes in treatment programs and the transformation of traditional healing systems as they are integrated into a bureaucratized health care system.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16319-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Since the Age of Discovery Europeans have sought both to dominate and to understand the many peoples with whom they have come in contact.* One of the lubricants of domination, as well as one of the most continuously puzzling features of contact, has been beverage alcohol and the way it has been used. Europeans have recognized that they themselves have used alcohol in many ways, often with untoward consequences. Non-Europeans with no previous experience with alcoholic beverages—particularly distilled beverages with a high alcohol content—have also experienced alcohol in various ways, depending upon the situation, what they had learned...

  5. 2 A History of Navajo Drinking
    (pp. 12-28)

    With few exceptions, the Indians of America north of Mexico had no knowledge of alcohol before contact with Europeans. In the Southwest, the Pimas, Papagos, and River Yumans made wine from the saguaro cactus in July, following the harvest of the first crops. During a saguaro ceremony everyone drank, believing that as humans saturated themselves with the wine, so the earth would be saturated with rain (Jorgensen 1980, 273). Wine made from the agave and mesquite plants was also known. The Western Apaches and Zunis are said to have known alcohol (Driver 1969, 109–10). The alcoholic content of the...

  6. 3 Longitudinal Studies of Alcohol Use
    (pp. 29-46)

    Alcohol studies are not unique in the high level of disagreement and even conflict that characterizes them, but on any scale of severity they are surely near the extreme end. The disagreements are about several often related issues that may be organized in the categories of definition, cause, and course.

    Bydefinitionwe mean whether the use of alcohol is conceived as a disease, a sin, or a crime. Bycoursewe mean the trajectory of alcohol use over the lifetime of an individual or a group. We include here such matters as: the ages at which drinking starts; its...

  7. 4 Alcohol-related Mortality: Changing Period Effects
    (pp. 47-68)

    In our original study we used the occurrence rates of several conditions often said to be alcohol-related to assess the extent of alcohol abuse among Navajos and its relation (or lack of relation) to various so-called social pathologies. The conditions that concerned us were cirrhosis, homicide, and suicide. The occurrence rates had the additional advantage of being comparable to data available from other populations, such as other Indians, adjacent non-Indians, and the entire U.S. population. In this chapter, however, we deal only with patterns of the Navajo population, reserving for chapter 8 a discussion of comparisons with non-Indian populations. Moreover,...

  8. 5 Survival Patterns of the Original Study Groups
    (pp. 69-98)

    Our field research began in the mid-1960s with people who were at least twenty-one years old, that is, the youngest members of our study population were in the highest risk age groups in the very period when the rates of death were increasing most dramatically. Our data therefore address the experience of cohorts whose youngest members were born no later than the early 1940s. As we have suggested, the cohort born between 1941 and 1953 seems to have had much lower death rates from alcoholic cirrhosis in the 35–44 age group (that is, in 1985–88) than those born...

  9. 6 Navajo Drinking Careers
    (pp. 99-138)

    In this chapter we turn our attention to the characteristics of problem drinking regardless of whether the individual died before the restudy in 1990. Instead of using alcohol-related mortality, we initially take drinking status (currently drinking or abstaining), either at the time of restudy or at the time of death, as an indicator of persisting drinking problems. In the same way that an alcohol-related death was not always a sure sign of problem drinking—one could be killed by a drunken driver without being drunk, for example—so it is possible to have continued to drink for many years in...

  10. 7 A Family History of Alcohol Use
    (pp. 139-167)
    Tracy Andrews

    Several South Tuba men were from families known in the community for their drinking. Three brothers from one of these families died of alcohol-related causes during the course of the study, and although we did not interview all of them, all had sought treatment at one time or another. Other members of the family continued to experience problems, including possible fetal physiological damage to a few members of the youngest generation. On the other hand, a sister was a lifelong abstainer and often assumed responsibility for the children and grandchildren of family members mired in alcohol abuse. Even the lives...

  11. 8 Navajo Mortality in Its Regional Context
    (pp. 168-191)

    “Indians, Eskimos die in car wrecks at three times national rate, cdc says,” announced a recent headline in theArizona (Tucson) Daily Star. And theJournal of the National Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Researchtells us that in 1987 Indians and Alaska natives died from alcoholism at almost five times the national rate (May 1992, 16). Such statistics not only give cause for concern but also shape the way the problem of Indian drinking is perceived. Moreover, the way data on Indian drinking are presented reflects our assumptions about the nature of alcohol, our image...

  12. 9 Alcohol Treatment and the Bureaucratization of Tradition
    (pp. 192-225)

    When we began this research in 1966, mental health and alcohol treatment programs were just being started. Two alcohol treatment programs had been established for a year or two on the eastern side of the reservation. None existed on the western side until an overworked internist in Tuba City, desperate to reduce the toll exacted by alcohol abuse, began the program we studied. Without any support, the services offered were minimal: a drying-out period in the hospital, loading with Antabuse, a wine challenge to demonstrate the effect of Antabuse, and then discharge with a standing order for Antabuse from the...

  13. 10 Conclusions
    (pp. 226-240)

    The older men in the original study, especially those in the more traditional sample, were able to stop or severely curtail their drinking by the time they were middle-aged, despite the fact that they were indistinguishable from alcoholics in several measures, including the incidence of withdrawal symptoms. This pattern of heavy binge drinking, which we called the traditional Navajo style, was still found in 1990, predominantly among Plateau men but also among men in the Hospital group who came from other rural areas.

    In addition to this traditional style, however, there was a deviant and more debilitating form of unrestrained...

  14. Appendix A A Retrospective Diagnosis of Psychoactive Substance Dependence according to DSM-III-R Criteria
    (pp. 241-244)
  15. Appendix B Alcohol Follow-up Questionnaire
    (pp. 245-256)
  16. Abbreviations
    (pp. 257-258)
  17. References
    (pp. 259-274)
  18. Index
    (pp. 275-280)