'The lizard in the green bottle': 'Aging out' of problem drinking among Navajo men

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40 Scopus citations


The Navajo exhibit a number of indicators suggesting the extent of significant problems associated with drinking and alcohol abuse. Measures of alcohol-related mortality and morbidity provide stark testimony regarding the shape and magnitude of problem drinking among the Navajo. While these measures highlight patterns of drinking that often result in social, physical, and psychological pathology, there are other, less noted patterns of Navajo drinking. This paper describes a salient, if often overlooked, pattern of Native American drinking by examining the aging out phenomenon among Navajo men. Using narratives collected from former problem drinkers, this paper describes the factors and motivations associated with this sometimes dramatic change in drinking behavior. Several themes emerge from these narratives that help explain the aging out process. These themes include health concerns, religious involvement, living a traditional Navajo way of life, and the responsibilities and life changes associated with child rearing. This paper not only provides detail on a category of drinker and drinking phenomena that is largely ignored in accounts of Native American drinking, but also illustrates some of the values and meanings attached to drinking cessation and highlights the relation between changes in drinking behavior and stages in life course among Navajo men. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1031-1045
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2000


  • Aging out
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drinking
  • Native Americans
  • Navajo


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