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Substance Abuse Varies Widely from State to State

By June 11, 2009

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Although every state struggles with substance abuse and mental health problems, the level of alcohol and drug use varies widely from state to state with some states having levels twice as high as others. According to a new government report, each state has its own unique pattern of public health problems.

The report was developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) based on the 2006 and 2007 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

The study data was drawn from interviews with 135,672 persons from throughout the United States. It gives a state-by-state breakdown along 23 different measures of substance abuse and mental health problems including illicit drug use, binge drinking, alcohol and illicit drug dependence, tobacco use, serious psychological distress and major depressive episodes.

Here are some examples of the study's finding that show substantial disparities among the states, according to a SAMHSA news release:

  • Iowa had less than half the current illicit drug use rate of Rhode Island (5.2% vs. 12.5%) but Iowa had one of the nation's highest levels of alcohol dependence (9.2%).

  • Vermont had the nation's highest incidence rate of marijuana use among people aged 12 and older (2.5%) while Utah had the lowest (1.6%).

  • The District of Columbia had the nation's highest rate of past year cocaine use among those aged 12 and older (5.1%) while Mississippi had the lowest (1.6%).

  • Utah had the nation's lowest rate of current underage drinking (17.3%) while North Dakota had the highest (40%).

  • Tennessee had the nation's highest rate of people aged 18 and older experiencing a major depressive episode in the past year (9.8%) while Hawaii had the lowest (5.0%).

"This report shows that while every state faces its own unique pattern of public health problems these problems confront every state," said SAMHSA Acting Administrator, Eric Broderick, in a news release. "By highlighting the exact nature and scope of the problems in each state we can help state public health authorities better determine the most effective ways of addressing them."

The full report, "State Estimates of Substance Use and Mental Health from the 2006-2007 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health," is available online.

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