Substance abuse diagnoses increasing in U.S.


Despite the large increase in opioid abuse diagnoses, the researchers said their study does provide a “reason for optimism.”

Specifically, the number of medicines prescribed to treat drug or alcohol problems during doctors’ visits increased by about as much as the number of visits related to opioid abuse.

Those medicines were prescribed to 643,000 people between 2001 and 2003. Between 2007 and 2009, that number grew to 3.9 million people.

The most-prescribed medications were buprenorphine and methadone, which are used to treat people addicted to opioids.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use and Health,  23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009 (9.3 percent of persons aged 12 or older). Of these, only 2.6 million - 11.2 percent of those who needed treatment - received it at a specialty facility.

SAMHSA also reports characteristics of admissions and discharges from substance abuse treatment facilities* in its Treatment Episode Data Set2 (TEDS). According to TEDS, there were 1.8 million admissions in 2008 for treatment of alcohol and drug abuse to facilities that report to State administrative data systems. Most treatment admissions (41.4 percent) involved alcohol abuse. Heroin and other opiates accounted for the largest percentage of drug-related admissions (20.0 percent), followed by marijuana (17.0 percent).


Data Sources

  NSDUH (formerly known as the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse) is an annual survey of Americans aged 12 and older conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services.
  Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) 1998–2008: National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services is published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. It contains demographic and substance abuse characteristics about treatment admissions to facilities that are licensed or certified by State substance abuse agencies.

The most popular treatment, however, was talk therapy, which was used in about 25 million total patients during the study period. Its use did not change much over time.

Frank told Reuters Health the findings are a mix of good news and bad news.

“I think it’s a mixed bag that highlights the magnitude of the problem and suggests we’re heading in the right direction” when it comes to treatment, he said.

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, online October 22, 2012.

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