Substance abuse is a major and growing threat to the health and well-being of rural individuals, their families, and their communities. It frequently co-occurs with mental and/or physical health problems and is detrimental to effective school, job, and parenting performance and highly correlated with anti-social and criminal behavior. These problems may be more pervasive in rural areas given that higher rates of substance abuse are associated with higher levels of poverty and unemployment and lower levels of income. Substance abuse strains rural service systems which are often overextended and under-resourced relative to urban systems. As one moves further along the rural continuum, the demands on these service systems tend to increase while resource and funding levels decline. The ability to organize effective substance abuse delivery systems in rural communities is hampered by limited supplies of specialized providers and services, low population densities, and long travel distances for rural persons to obtain care.
Given the apparent disparity between need and the availability of services in rural areas, this project will explore these issues through the development of a rural substance abuse chartbook. We will use two national surveys sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to examine the prevalence of the use of different substances relative to the availability and use of treatment services as well as how this relationship may vary in rural communities of different sizes, regions of the country, and among different demographic groups.
This project will produce a comprehensive national chartbook on the prevalence of the abuse of legal and illegal substances across rural populations, the extent to which rural individuals are receiving treatment for their substance abuse, barriers to the receipt of treatment, and the distribution of substance abuse services across rural areas.