Association of belief in the "firewater myth" with strategies to avoid alcohol consequences among American Indian and Alaska Native college students who drink


Vivian M. Gonzalez, Monica C. Skewes


Psychology of Addictive Behaviors


Belief in an American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) specific biological vulnerability (BV) to alcohol problems (aka the "firewater myth") is associated with worse alcohol outcomes among AI/AN college students who drink, despite also being associated with greater attempts to reduce drinking. The current study examined how belief in a BV may have affected how 157 AI/AN college students who drink (a) attempted to moderate their alcohol use and avoid alcohol-related problems using abstinence-based and harm reduction strategies, and (b) attitudes toward these strategies as a means of addressing alcohol problems. Contrary to our hypotheses, belief in a BV was not found to be associated with use of harm reduction strategies or with how effective students believed these strategies to be. However, greater belief in a BV was associated with lower self-efficacy for the use of harm reduction strategies among more frequent heavy episodic drinkers. This is concerning, as the use of harm reduction strategies was associated with less frequent heavy episodic drinking in this sample. In contrast, belief in a BV was positively associated with the use of abstinence-based strategies and with how effective these strategies were perceived to be. However, for individuals with average or greater belief in a BV, abstinence-based strategies were associated with greater alcohol consequences. The results suggest that for AI/AN students who drink, belief in a BV may be influencing the strategies used to moderate alcohol use and avoid alcohol-related harm, as well as attitudes toward these strategies, in ways that do not appear helpful.



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