The Phoenix-based Urban Indian Coalition presented a workshop on Feb. 24 at the Mesa Public Library about prescription drug abuse among Native youth. This was presented as part of an ongoing educational series for parents and community members on how to work with Native youth.
LorenAshley Buford, who heads the coalition through the Phoenix Indian Center, stated that prescription drug abuse is on the rise nationwide and Native youth are particularly vulnerable.
According to surveys, more than 20% of all Native high school sophomores in Maricopa County reported misusing a prescription drug, which is 6% higher than the average for all youth in the county. The same report also mentioned that 1 in 5 youth were introduced to prescription drug abuse in elementary school.
Buford, who is Seminole, stated that often parents don’t initiate conversations about drug abuse until children become teenagers and less than half of all Native parents have a conversation with their children about substance abuse.
“It’s become a passion of mine to really speak out and [help parents] have those difficult conversations,” Buford said. “It’s important to know that this isn’t just happening to ‘just my cousin’ or ‘just my auntie,’ but it’s happening to a lot of people.”