Association of the Firewater Myth With Drinking Behavior Among American Indian and Alaska Native College Students

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The firewater myth (FM) is the notion that American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol and vulnerable to alcohol problems due to biological or genetic differences. Believing that one is vulnerable to problems with alcohol may have negative effects on expectancies and drinking behavior among AI/ANs who drink; however, the association of belief in the FM with alcohol outcomes has not previously been examined. In this study we examined the factor structure of a revised version of the Firewater Myth Scale (FMS; LaMarr, 2003) and the association of belief in the FM with alcohol use, consequences, attitudes, and expectancies with 159 AI/AN college students who drink. On average, participants “slightly agreed” with the FM and scores were normally distributed. There were significant small to moderate positive associations between believing that AI/ANs have a biological vulnerability to problems with alcohol (i.e., the FM) and drinks consumed per week, frequency of heavy episodic drinking, and alcohol consequences, as well as belief in a disease model of “alcoholism,” attempts to control drinking, guilt over drinking small amounts of alcohol, both positive and negative alcohol expectancies, temptation to drink heavily, and lack of self-efficacy to drink moderately. Although this is only an initial examination of potential consequences of belief in the FM for AI/AN students who drink, the results suggest that this belief may be harmful and have negative effects on attempts to moderate drinking.

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