Indian Tribe Sues Big Brewers Over Alcohol Problems | The Fix
facebook twitter RSS
HOT TOPICS: Alcoholism  Addiction  AA  Cocaine  Heroin

Indian Tribe Sues Big Brewers Over Alcohol Problems

An expert tells The Fix what could be done to tackle chronic alcohol-related health problems in Native American reservations.

Image: 

One in four children born here suffers
from fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal
alcohol spectrum disorder. Photo via

By Jennifer Matesa

02/10/12

| Share

The Oglala Sioux Nation filed suit against five big American beer makers for $500 million Thursday, to cover the healthcare and social costs of alcohol-related illness in the tribe. The lawsuit names Anheuser-Bush InBev Worldwide, Molson Coors Brewing Company, MillerCoors LLC, SAB Miller and Pabst Brewing Company. Four beer stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska—a town with only a dozen residents that still sold nearly five million cans of beer in 2010—are also targeted. Most of the stores' customers come from the nearby Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, where alcohol has been banned since 1832, and tribal leaders say the stores and manufacturers are responsible for the reservation’s chronic alcohol abuse. “You cannot sell 4.9 million 12-ounce cans of beer and wash your hands like Pontius Pilate, and say we’ve got nothing to do with it being smuggled,” says Tom White, the lawyer representing the tribe.

The suit specifies that one in four children born on the reservation suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. It's been documented that Native Americans are prone to alcoholism because, genetically, they have a lower tolerance than other ethnic groups. A 2008 CDC report showed that nearly 12% of deaths among Native Americans are alcohol-related—more than three times the proportion in the general population—with two-thirds of them occurring before the age of 50. Reservation residents have an average life expectancy of between 45 and 52 years—the lowest in North America except for Haiti, the lawsuit adds. The reservation holds some of the nation’s poorest counties, with nearly half of residents living below federal poverty levels.

“Whenever you have people who are hopeless and impoverished and in trouble you’re going to get a lot of substance abuse,” Claire D. Coles, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and Director of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Center of the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, Georgia, tells The Fix. Cohen says preventing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in communities with high alcoholism rates would require early identification of affected children, the training of physicians to identify drinking women during pregnancy, early prenatal care and adequate nutrition, early identification of affected babies at birth, and “support to the males in the family so they’ll support the women in not drinking. All of these things need to be done, and they do help.”

Rehabilitation Directories

Most Popular
Sober Living
An Audience with Gabor Maté

According to the rock star of addiction theory, every addict had a traumatic childhood whether they realize it or not.

The Rehab Review
Cliffside Malibu
 
 
 
 
 

The “beach-house-relaxed” Cliffside Malibu claims to provide an oasis for recovering addicts and alcoholics. And that’s just what you'll get—if you’ve got the cash.

Morningside Recovery
 
 
 
 

For a “rehab near the beach” experience that isn’t quite as costly as similar SoCal competitors, head to this Newport Beach treatment facility.

AToN Center
 
 
 
 

Whether you’re interested in the 12 Steps, SMART Recovery, or holistic treatments, this luxurious, appealing and commendable 4.5 star (our system doesn't yet show the 1/2 star) San Diego rehab has a program for you. 

Reflections
 
 
 
 

This exclusive Northern California rehab is all about client choice—as well as golf outings, Buddhist field trips and keeping up with the office.

Capo By The Sea
 
 
 
 

Capo By The Sea offers an executive rehab program complete with medical detox and a focus on dual-diagnosis issues, as well as an outpatient option in an environment that exudes the kind of beach house optimism one would expect from an Orange County recovery outfit.

Journey Malibu
 
 
 
 

Want many of the luxury amenities A-listers have come to expect—including an enormous backyard with a pool and patio, an herb garden, a volleyball net and a spectacular vista of the Santa Monica mountains—with a recovery program to match?

The Ultimate Guide to Rehab
 
 
 
 
 

What you need to know when choosing an addiction treatment center.

the fix tv