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Substance Abuse

Substance abuse has long been perceived to be a problem of the inner city. However, alcohol abuse is also a problem in rural areas and illicit drugs have infiltrated towns of every size. Today, adults and young teens in rural areas are just as likely to abuse substances as those in larger metropolitan areas. The problems may be the same, but smaller communities have limited resources to deal with the consequences of substance abuse.

Factors contributing to substance abuse in rural America include poverty, unemployment, underemployment and the isolation of rural areas. Substance abuse results in crime including buying and selling drugs, driving while intoxicated, and disorderly conduct, as well as poor grades in school and other serious complications. Substances abused include, but are not limited to, alcohol, drugs, prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs and cigarettes.

According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, substance abuse dependence for persons 12 years or older (unless age is otherwise noted) varied by geographic area:

  • Underage alcohol use rate in nonmetropolitan areas was 22.6%, small metropolitan areas was 24.4%, large metropolitan areas was 24.7%.
  • Rates of past month alcohol use were 45.6% in nonmetropolitan areas, 53.1% in small and 53.5% in large metropolitan areas.
  • Rates of binge alcohol use among youths aged 12 to 17 were 9.2% in nonmetropolitan areas, 6.8% in small metropolitan areas, and 6.9% in large metropolitan areas.
  • Rates of illicit drug use was 6.8% in nonmetropolitan counties as a group, 9.2% in small metropolitan counties, and 9.9% in large metropolitan counties. Within nonmetropolitan areas, the rate was 8.3% in urbanized counties, 5.9% in less urbanized counties, and 4.8% in completely rural counties.
  • Cigarette smoking rates in nonmetropolitan areas were 27.4%, small metropolitan areas 23.2%, and large metropolitan areas 19.9%.
  • Rates of smokeless tobacco use during the past month in nonmetropolitan areas were 7.1%, small metropolitan areas 3.9%, and large metropolitan areas 2.1%.
  • Rates of substance dependence or abuse among nonmetropolitan counties was 7.4%, compared to 8.8% in small metropolitan counties and 8.7% in large metropolitan counties.

Sources
2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

Contacts

Drug Enforcement Office in your state: click on your state to find the best number for your location

National Alcohol and Substance Abuse Information Call Center
Hotline Call Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 800.784.6776

National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines
Reaches professionals in every state that work to help in cessation efforts of tobacco users. Call 800.QUIT.NOW (800.784.8669)  / TTY 800.332.8615

SAMSHA's Substance Abuse Treatment Locator
Find a treatment center in your area

There are more organizations related to Substance Abuse in the organizations section.

Frequently Asked Questions

Last Reviewed: 8/21/2013

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Funding for this project was supported by Grant Number U56RH05539 from the Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the funder.