Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Fighting Firewater Fictions: Moving beyond the Disease Model of Alcoholism in First Nations

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Fighting Firewater Fictions: Moving beyond the Disease Model of Alcoholism in First Nations

Article excerpt

R.W. Thatcher, Fighting Firewater Fictions: Moving Beyond the Disease Model of Alcoholism in First Nations (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), v-vi + 407pp. Cloth. $65 (£42). ISBN 0-8020-8985-2; Paper. $35 (£22.50). ISBN 0-8020-8647-0.

The principal aim of this book was to deconstruct the 'firewater complex', defined by the author as a cultural construct for the drinking style that ravages the communities of the First Nations in Canada. The detailed and carefully written approach utilises a persuasive set of arguments to present an understanding of the causes of alcohol misuse among Native peoples. From the position of a clinical sociologist, the author analyses destructive drinking patterns in First Nations from the theoretical perspective of a social problem. With close argument and recourse to a wide body of literature, the author challenges the widely-held public view of the 'firewater complex', with its adherence to the notion that Native peoples have a genetic biological predisposition to alcohol dependency. In Part 1, eleven chapters are devoted to 'Deconstructing the Firewater Complex'. Part 2 uses five chapters to present ideas on 'Rebuilding and Renovating Alcohol Prevention Strategies in First Nations'. The overall conclusion establishes key arguments. She argues that alcohol abuse patterns in First Nations are largely learned and do not originate in a distinctive, race-based genetic profile; and that the disease model of alcoholism has been replaced by the bio-psychosocial model that assumes there are many causal paths leading to alcohol problems. …

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