Substance abuse is a worrying health hazard for aboriginal population. It is a growing social crisis that necessitates serious attention. Throughout the past, indigenous communities have undergone severe trauma, racism and marginalization and the problem of drug abuse only exacerbates the situation. The purpose of this paper is to shed light on sociological reasons behind the menace of aboriginal drug use and to recommend an initiative to alleviate the problem.
According to Statistics Canada (2016), 4.9% of nations total population reported an aboriginal identity and First nations people, Mtis and Inuit are the three groups recognized as aboriginal peoples within boundaries of modern-day Canada. In Canada, since 1600s, aboriginal groups have faced numerous disturbing events. Attempt to Christianize aboriginals, creation and implementation of the residential school system, and limited right to visit other groups on their residential reserves left the native communities marginalized (Cao1, Burton Jr., & Liu, 2018). Today also, aboriginal groups have poor quality of life as compared to non-aboriginal population. For instance, Pendakur & Pendakur, 2011 found that Aboriginal peoples income lags noticeably behind others (as cited in Cao1, Burton Jr., & Liu, 2018). Furthermore, according Currie, Wild, Schopflocher, & Laing, 2015, percentage of aboriginal adults who reported facing racial discrimination in the previous year was above 80%. Mohammadi (2018) revealed that aboriginal peoples, especially youth, are more likely to involve in illicit drug abuse as compared to non-aboriginal population. According Aboriginal peoples survey 2012, daily smoking was reported by 63% of Inuit living in Inuit Nunangat, compared with 29% of those outside Inuit Nunangat and About a quarter (26%) of Inuit aged 15 and older reported heavy drinking30% of men and 23% of women (Wallace, 2014). The figures provide evidence for extreme substance dependence among Canadian aboriginals.
The first sociological explanation for drug use among native communities is absence of social support and isolation from society. A large number of aboriginal people have to live within the secluded reserves. Social conditions on many reserves reflect the historical and political neglect that Canada has shown toward people of Indigenous ancestry (Mccue, 2018). Furthermore, in 2015, Currie, Wild, Schopflocher, & Laing reported that more than 80% of Aboriginal adults had in the past year. According to Durkheims theory of anomie, deviance is seen to result where feelings of disconnection from society predominate. Individuals who believe they are a part of society are less likely to commit crimes against it (Langara.panopen.com, 2019). Native communities possibly do not feel the need to stress upon societys opinion of their actions as they do not feel acknowledged and involved in society. Hence, it can be said that social exclusion often causes indigenous population to consume drugs because of lack of care for social consequences. Also, drugs act as a way for aboriginal people to escape solitude.
The second sociological explanation for the issue is lack of employment and educational opportunities. Pendakur & Pendakur, (2011) reported by Investigating the earnings and by Aboriginal people in Canada from 1995 to 2005, that Aboriginal people faced substantial income and earnings gaps in comparison with Canadian born majority-group workers with similar characteristics (such as age and education). The estimated gaps were about 10 to 20 percent for women and 20 to 50 percent for men. This has rendered aboriginal communities financially insecure. Furthermore, according to Bowlby & McMullens (2002) statistics indicate that fewer than 50% of Aboriginal students acquire a high school diploma, in contrast to an 88% graduation rate among non-Aboriginal students (as cited in Pirbhai-Illich, 2010). According to Robert Mertons strain theory access to socially acceptable goals plays a part in determining whether a person conforms or deviates. The discrepancy between the reality of structural inequality and the high cultural value of economic success creates a strain that has to be resolved by some means (Langara.panopen.com, 2019). So, when aboriginal face similar situation, where they are left with no means to fulfil their dreams, the only option left is crime. Due to unemployment and illiteracy plethora of young aboriginals are led astray. Many of them turn to drug smuggling in an effort to support their family. Unfortunately, once they get involved in delinquency and illicit drug usage, it becomes difficult to overcome this fixation.
The third explanation for drug abuse among ethnic people is intergenerational trauma, post traumatic stress and other mental health issues. It is important to note that these are not merely individual health problems but are extremely common among aboriginal masses. Research with that illegal drug usage is related to mental disorders (Melchior, Prokofyeva, Younes, Surkan, & Martins, 2014; Tu, Ratner, & Johnson, 2008; Webber et al., 2016, as cited in Cao1, Burton Jr., & Liu, 2018). This history of mental trauma can be dated back to 1847, when the Canadian government operated 130 residential boarding schools across Canada for Aboriginal children, who were forcibly taken from their homes. Although the specified purpose of these residential schools was to provide education, these schools were often plagued by underfunding, disease, and abuse (Charles & DeGane, 2013; Monchalin, 2016, as cited in Cao1, Burton Jr., & Liu, 2018). Intergenerational Indian Residential School (IRS) trauma continues to undermine the well-being of todays aboriginal population and having a familial history of IRS attendance has also been linked with more frequent contemporary stressor experiences and relatively greater effects of stressors on well-being. It is also suggested IRS attendance across several generations within a family appears to have cumulative effects (Bombay, Matheson, & Anisman, 2014).