Five Differences Between Rural and Urban Drug Abuse

Five Differences Between Rural and Urban Drug Abuse

There are differences in how, why and which drugs are used depending on rural or urban locations

While growing addiction rates are a problem that affect all Americans, there are differences Californians should be aware of in how, why and which drugs are used. Environmentally-related drug use and treatment factors may be linked to urban or rural settings.

Race Differences Between Rural and Urban Drug Users

When the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) looked at the data surrounding addiction treatment admissions, they found that the race demographics of those seeking treatment changed between rural and urban settings. In rural settings admissions are less racially diverse, as 77 percent, more than three-quarters, of rural admissions involve non-Hispanic whites, while this demographic only accounts for 38 percent of urban admissions (“The TEDS Report: A Comparison of Rural and Urban Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions,” July 2012). Rural settings tend to be less racially diverse overall which accounts for much of these differences in admissions rates, but it also raises awareness of the need to share treatment information and access across all population demographics in California.

Age Differences Between Rural and Urban Drug Users

When reviewing treatment admissions, SAMHSA found, “Over one third of rural admissions (34.2 percent) were under the age of 26 compared to less than a quarter of urban admissions (23.5 percent).” Rural drug users tend to be younger than their urban counterparts or to seek treatment at a younger age, as those 50 or older made up 16 percent of urban treatment admissions but only 10.5 of those in the rural population. Seeking help sooner rather than later is associated with better treatment outcomes, so populations with a younger average age for seeking treatment may see better overall addiction treatment results. It is never too late to get addiction help, and recovery can be found at any age, but taking immediate action rather than delaying treatment is essential.

Different Drugs Used by Rural and Urban Drug Users

Rural users are more likely to use alcohol, marijuana and prescription opiates than their urban counterparts, while those in urban settings are more likely to use heroin and cocaine (SAMHSA). The discrepancy in opioid abuse rates is one area for concern, as the American Journal of Public Health shares, “Nonmedical prescription opioid misuse remains a growing public problem in need of action and is concentrated in areas of US states with large rural populations such as Kentucky, West Virginia, Alaska, and Oklahoma” (“Understanding the Rural–Urban Differences in Nonmedical Prescription Opioid Use and Abuse in the United States,” 2014). Prescription drug abuse is now considered an epidemic, and it is often concentrated in rural settings. Factors such as drug access, economic stressors and education may influence opioid abuse rates, and these inequalities and lack of information need to be acknowledged and addressed to prevent the continued spread of addiction in all communities.

Differences in Treatment Utilization between Urban and Rural Populations

The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse shares, “being from a very rural area decreased the likelihood of having ever been in treatment after controlling for the number of years using and race. While problem recognition appears to explain much of the effect of very rural residence on treatment utilization for alcohol abuse, the effects of being from a very rural area on treatment rates for drug abuse remain statistically significant even after controlling for several other variables” (“Rural-Urban Differences in Substance Use and Treatment Utilization among Prisoners,” 2001). Those in rural areas may not have the information about addiction or access to treatment resources that can be found in urban settings in California, and this lack of information directly affects individuals’ ability to utilize treatment.

Differences in Why Urban or Rural Populations Seek Treatment

SAMHSA explains, “Rural admissions were more likely than urban admissions to be referred by the criminal justice system (51.6 vs. 28.4 percent) and less likely to be self- or individually referred (22.8 vs. 38.7 percent).” This reflects previously stated differences in access to and awareness and utilization of treatment resources. However although rural treatment participants were more likely to be outwardly encouraged to attend treatment, setting, background and reason for treatment do not predict an individual’s recovery outcome. There is no wrong reason to seek treatment, and even those who feel they are sent against their will may benefit from professionally-run programs with strong motivational therapy elements. Rock bottom has long been a mythologized point addicts must reach before there is any hope of them getting better. However modern science and treatment are proving rock bottom can be raised and redefined.

Let our admissions coordinators find the recovery services that will benefit you or your addicted loved one in California. We can provide a free assessment to determine the treatment options that best meet your unique situation and offer the tools you need for a life of recovery. This may involve intervention or mediation resources, motivational therapy or demographic-specific care. There is no wrong time or reason to call. Anyone can break free from addiction. Let us help.

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