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Depression Can Lead To Substance Abuse For Some Native American Youths

Reno-Sparks Indian Colony

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed the opioidepidemic in rural areas during a stop in Reno yesterday. Reno Public Radio's Anh Gray reports.

Vilsack met with local leaders at the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.

Veronica Domingues-Gephart works in behavioral health at the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center. She says in Indian Country, opioid dependency is often linked to depression and anxiety among young people.

“What we have found is that often times the youth are suffering a lot from identity issues,” Domingues-Gephart says, “and the struggle in trying to improve their education in the public school setting.”

Gephart says these emotional issues can eventually lead to substance and opioid abuse as a coping mechanism. 

“I think it’s one of the struggles that many of us face in the tribal communities and the health center,” Domingues-Gepahart explains, “is how do we outreach to that age group to look at prevention?”

According to a report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, one if five American Indians 12 years and older have used illicit drugs.    

Anh Gray is a former contributing editor at KUNR Public Radio.
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