Warning from the Rez

American Indians deal with pharmaceutical companies' aggressive over-medicating.

By Leticia Miranda Oct 14, 2009

October 14, 2009

Although alcoholism has long been a problem in Indian Country, tribal substance  abuse counselors are reporting that they’re now seeing an increase in addiction to prescription drugs.

Health officials say the high rates of diabetes, depression and rheumatoid arthritis contribute to this new wave of addictions. But pharmaceutical companies and the Veterans Health Administration are also responsible for over-prescribing vets with prescription drugs, said Tracy “Ching” King, a councilman from the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.

Erma Skunkcap, a substance abuse counselor at the Crystal Creek Treatment Center in Browning, Montana, said that 10 out of 12 substance abuse patients at the center were addicted to prescription drugs. Many patients buy the drugs illegally, grind them up and either snort them or inject them intravenously, consequently leading to a rise in hepatitis C, a disease that can cost patients up to $15,000 a year in prescription drugs to treat.