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A new national report shows that from 1999 to 2009 (the most recent year with available figures) substance abuse treatment admissions among those 12 and older have gone up for cases involving alcohol, opiates, and marijuana. The report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that one of the most notable shifts that has occurred in this period was in the rise of opiate admissions attributable mostly to prescription drugs – from 8-percent of all opiate admissions in 1999 to 33-percent in 2009.
Another trend is found in treatment admissions related to alcohol problems which decreased from 48-percent in 1999 to 39-percent in 2005, but then increased steadily to 42-percent in 2009. Nearly half of admissions (44-percent) for alcohol abuse problems involved abuse of other drugs. Alcohol was the leading drug of abuse for treatment admissions among all major ethnic and racial groups except persons of Puerto Rican origin (who cited opiate abuse as their leading problem).

The report also shows that marijuana-related admissions have risen from 13-percent in 1999 to 18-percent in 2009. Nearly three-quarters (74-percent) of marijuana admissions involved males and almost half (48-percent) involved non-Hispanic Whites. Marijuana was either the primary or secondary reason for substance abuse treatment in 86-percent of all admissions involving those between the ages of 12 and 17.

“This new report shows the challenge our nation’s health system must address as the treatment needs of people with drug and alcohol problems continue to evolve,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “People often arrive in treatment programs with multiple problems – including dependency or addiction to multiple substances of abuse. As health care reform continues to improve the delivery of health services in our country, this type of information will increasingly be used to inform the needs of an integrated system of care.”

“These data underscore the severity of our Nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic and the importance of public awareness regarding the harms caused by drug use.” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “All of us share the responsibility to address our Nation’s drug problem by working collaboratively at the Federal, state, and local level to prevent drug use before it starts, expand access to drug treatment, and support enforcement efforts that disrupt the diversion of prescription drugs.”

In April, the Obama Administration released Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis, a comprehensive action plan for reducing prescription drug diversion and abuse by supporting the expansion of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs, recommending more convenient and environmentally responsible disposal methods to remove unused medications from the home, supporting education for patients and healthcare providers, and reducing the prevalence of pill mills and doctor shopping through enforcement efforts.

The SAMHSA report did identify a couple of instances where admission levels had dropped from 1999 to 2009 – most notably cocaine admissions which fell from 14-percent to 9- percent. Methamphetamine/amphetamines admissions rose from 4 percent of all admissions in 1999 to 9-percent in 2005, but then decreased to 6-percent in 2009.

Overall the report found that five substance groups account for 96-percent of the 1,963,089 admissions of people aged 12 and older that occurred during 2009. These include: alcohol (42-percent), opiates (21-percent), marijuana (18-percent), cocaine (9-percent) and methamphetamine/amphetamines (6-percent).

Treatment Episode Data Set 1999 – 2009: was developed as part of SAMHSA’s strategic initiative on data, outcomes, and quality – an effort to inform policy makers and service providers on the nature and scope of behavioral health issues. The report is based on data from the 1999 to 2009 Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS). TEDS is a reporting system involving treatment facilities from across the country.


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