Why Drug and Alcohol Rehab Statistics Should Concern Us

by | Feb 28, 2019 | Addiction | 0 comments

Why Alcohol and Drug Rehab Statistics Should Concern Us

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Headlines and nightly newscasts remind us on a continuing basis that drugs and alcohol affect countless lives across America. Substance use disorders unravel the lives of users and their families every day. Services exist to treat those in need, but they cannot be forced on anyone except in extreme cases. Even then, compulsory treatment services enforced by judicial systems do not always fare as well as those sought on a voluntary basis. The most recent drug and alcohol rehab statistics suggest that, while many do recover of their own volition, many continue to suffer unnecessarily.

It is worth looking closer at these statistics. If families and service professionals are to successfully intervene before users suffer any further health risks or legal issues, we must more fully understand the needs of those currently forgoing the services that might save their lives. A few of the most relevant statistics are those pertaining to rates of substance use disorder, those who receive treatment, and those in need of integrative substances to address more than their substance use alone.

This article is part of a larger informational series on drug and alcohol rehab.

Prevalence of Substance Abuse in America

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Young adults suffer from chemical dependency at higher rates than any other age group.

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 15.1 million people from the age of 12 onward (5.6% of the surveyed population) suffered from alcohol use disorder. In other words, out of every 18 people aged 12 or above, one is likely to be an alcoholic.

This included less than half a million adolescents, with those aged 18 or older presenting much higher risks for alcoholic disorders. About 10.7% of those aged 18-25 (nearly 1 out of 9) suffered from alcoholism, representing a total of 3.7 million young adult drinkers. From the age of 16 onward, this dropped to 5.2%, although the large population size resulted in a total of 10.9 million problem drinkers surveyed.

Drug and alcohol rehab statistics pertaining to illicit drug users present a more complicated issue. Many of the numbers appear smaller—7.4 million, or 2.7%, of those aged 12 or older. However, while there may appear to be half as many suffering from illicit drug use disorder as there are suffering from alcohol use disorder, many of these users are at high risk for overdose or criminal conviction.

More startling, adolescent drug use rates are higher than adolescent alcohol use rates at a rate of 3.2% (789,000) of those aged 12-17 compared to the 2% (488,000) who use alcohol. The NSDUH includes marijuana users in this number, but also includes approximately 153,000 adolescent opioid addicts and 86,000 adolescent prescription sleeping pill users. Other drugs used include meth, cocaine and—at a thankfully low rate of 1,000 adolescent users—heroin.

Older users presented slightly lower rates of illicit drug use than alcohol use. Young adults suffered illicit drug use disorder at a rate of 7% (2.4 million) while those aged 26 and over suffered addiction at a rate of 2% (4.2 million).

How Many Addicts Receive Treatment?

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Many need help, but few are receiving it.

Drug and alcohol rehab statistics typically overlap. For instance, when assessing the prevalence of substance abuse, one would not add the 15.1 million alcoholics to the 7.4 million illicit drug users and arrive at a rate of 22.5 people suffering from substance dependency. The true figure for those aged 12 or older suffering from substance use disorder is 20.1 million, including approximately 2.3 million addicted to both alcohol and illicit drugs. Of these, approximately 3.8 million received substance abuse treatment in 2016. This included 624,000 young adults and 3 million aged 26 or over. These rates are low for the number in need of treatment, particularly considering the high rate of young adult users in comparison with the size of their population.

Even these numbers, as low as they appear, suffer from some inflation. The NSDUH does not strictly define treatment as inpatient drug and alcohol rehab. Even outpatient alcohol and drug rehab is only a small part of the equation. The numbers presented include jails, doctor’s offices, and 12-step meetings. Those who receive services from such places may receive the help they need, but the intensive program offered at facilities such as Amethyst falls under what the NSDUH refers to as “specialty treatment.”

Looking only at drug and alcohol rehab statistics pertaining to specialty substance abuse treatment, about 2.2 million received services in 2016. This included 383,000 young adults and 1.8 million adults. Altogether, only about 10.6% of those in need of treatment received it. This includes 8.2% aged 12-17, 7.2% aged 18-25, and 12.1% aged 26 or older.

While most addicts remain in need of treatment, these numbers are not in and of themselves a bad start. Unfortunately, one more factor complicates the situation—the relationship between substance abuse and co-occurring disorders.

Dual Diagnosis: A Pressing Concern

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For the addict, untreated mental illness is like a time bomb.

The NSDUH looks at the co-occurrence of mental illness and substance use disorder among adults aged 18 and up. Approximately 8.2 million surveyed adults suffered from co-occurring disorders in 2016. In 2.6 million cases, the co-occurring mental illness was classified as severe. Approximately 51.9% of adults with co-occurring disorders and 34.4% of those with severe mental illnesses received no treatment for their substance abuse or their mental disorders, let alone both. Only 6.9% of all cases and 12% of severe cases received treatment for both issues simultaneously.

A concerning gap appears in this branch of drug and alcohol rehab statistics. Even the bulk of those who received care did not receive the full care they needed. The likelihood of relapse in such cases remains high. Treatment for co-occurring disorders cannot succeed when failing to address the substance abuse that often worsened those disorders. Likewise, when treatment for substance abuse fails to address the root causes, the user is left with inherent triggers.

This approach to treatment is like trying to defuse a time bomb by putting tape over the timer. The threat remains. Worst of all, the addict and their family are now less prepared for the incoming explosion because they believe the threat has passed.

Amethyst Recovery offers integrative dual diagnosis care, seeking to address root causes in addition to chemical dependency itself. Dual diagnosis treatment is the only true way to address the time bomb lurking behind the facts and figures discussed above. Drug and alcohol rehab statistics should concern us not for the number of untreated substance users, but rather for the number who believe they have been treated without truly receiving the services they need. Only by addressing this core issue will we truly see addiction rates begin to fall.


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