Community Collaborations Needed to Combat the Opioid Crisis Among Indigenous Youth

October 27, 2023


By Karina Antenucci

Since 2019, drug overdose deaths among teens ages 14-18 have been on the rise. The highest risk and increase has been among American Indian and Alaska Native young adults. There are currently very few culturally-centered drug treatment and prevention programs for these groups.

“Prevention is critically important to the nation’s response to this alarming epidemic,” says Kelli A. Komro, PhD, professor of behavioral, social, and health education sciences.

Komro is lead co-author of a paper that was recently included in a supplemental issue of Prevention Science that addresses this issue. She and her team members collaborated on an additional four papers included in the supplemental issue, which responds to an urgent need to release timely insights and lessons learned from a research collaborative supported by the National Institutes of Health’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative.  

The Paper’s Main Findings

  • Building relationships with community members, tribal leaders, and elders can help ensure programming is culturally and developmentally appropriate.
  • This research serves as a model for all community research that has a goal of improving health.
  • Culturally appropriate drug prevention programs establish trust and confidence and benefit American Indian and Alaska Native people.

What Still Needs to Be Done

More culturally-centered opioid intervention and treatment programs are needed. Developing these programs can help address unique issues that American Indian and Alaska Native young adults experience, including historical and intergenerational trauma.