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Pain-Killer Addiction Hits Rural Areas

Smallest Increase in Metro Areas

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Updated August 11, 2004

Rural areas outpaced urban areas in substance abuse treatment rates for abuse of narcotic painkillers in 2002. This is the conclusion of a new report "Treatment Admissions in Urban and Rural Areas Involving Abuse of Narcotic Painkillers: 2002 Update" released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The report finds that while nationwide admissions for abuse of narcotic painkillers increased from 14 per 100,000 population in 1992, to 15 per 100,000 in 1997 to 35 per 100,000 in 2002, the most rural areas of the nation increased from 12 per 100,000 in 1992 to 13 per 100,000 in 1997 to 43 per 100,000 in 2002.

This is an increase of 269 percent for non-metropolitan areas without a city, compared to a 155 percent increase for the nation as a whole. Large central metropolitan areas had the smallest increase, 58 percent.

"Abuse of narcotic painkillers is accelerating in rural areas, and with it the need for effective substance abuse treatment and recovery support services," SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie said. "Increasing substance abuse treatment capacity is a top priority for SAMHSA. The President has proposed $2.35 billion in FY 2005, a $151 million increase to help meet the critical need for treatment services in rural and urban areas."

Treatment Episode Data Set

The report examines narcotic painkiller treatment admission rates per 100,000 persons aged 12 or older at five levels of urbanization for 1992, 1997 and 2002. Data are from SAMHSA's Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS).

The data show that large central metropolitan areas had rates of treatment admissions for narcotic painkillers of 14 per 100,000 in 1992 and 23 in 2002, an increase of 58 percent over the 1992-2002 time period. Counties on the fringe of large cities had rates of 14 in 1992 and 36 in 2002, an increase of 166 percent.

Small metropolitan areas increased from 18 per 100,000 population in 1992 to 48 in 2002, a 175 percent increase. Non-metropolitan counties with a small city of 10,000 or more had treatment admissions that increased from 13 per 100,000 population in 1992 to 44 in 2002, an increase of 231 percent.

The report is based on SAMHSA's Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) for 2002. TEDS provides information on the demographic and substance abuse characteristics of the 1.9 million admissions to treatment for abuse of alcohol and drugs from reporting facilities. The new report is located on the web.

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