Agency Finds Unexpected Patterns Of Substance Use, Mental Illness in U.S.

Mental health and substance abuse problems affect every local community throughout America -- but in unique, and sometimes surprising ways, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The report offers highly detailed analyses of the substance abuse and mental health problems occurring within these smaller geographical areas.

For example, one of the smaller geographical (or substate) areas in the survey --Utah’s Salt Lake and Weber-Morgan Counties -- have among the nation's highest levels of persons aged 12 or older using painkillers for non-medical reasons. In these two counties, levels were as high as 7.92 percent. In contrast, areas of the District of Columbia had some of the nation’s lowest levels of this type of substance abuse, as low as 2.48 percent in parts of the city.

Yet the exact same communities in Utah had the among the nation's lowest levels of underage binge alcohol use in the past month (as low as 8.72 percent of those age 12 to 20). The District of Columbia had equally low levels in some parts of the city, but other parts had some of the nation’s highest levels (as high as 39.01 percent among this age group).

"The findings reveal that the nation's substance abuse and the mental health problems are fundamentally local in character and might be addressed directly most effectively at that level," said SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline, Ph.D. "This report provides local public health authorities sharper insight into the nature and scope of the substance abuse and mental health problems affecting their communities."

The report, "Substate Estimates from the 2004-2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health," measures and analyzes 23 substance abuse and mental health-related behavior levels in 345 substate regions representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In most states, the substate regions are defined in terms of counties or groups of counties. In a few states, these areas are defined in terms of census tracts. The results were based on the combined data from the 2004 to 2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and involved responses from 203,870 people age 12 or older throughout the United States.

The full report is available at http://oas.samhsa.gov/substate2k8/toc.cfm.

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