Prevalence of Illicit Drug Use is Higher in Large Metro Areas

Urban

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), although both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas experienced significant increases from 2003–2005 to 2012–2014 in self-reported past-month use of illicit drugs, the prevalence was highest for the large metropolitan areas compared with small metropolitan or nonmetropolitan areas throughout the study period.

The report goes on to note that past-month use of illicit drugs declined over the study period for the youngest respondents (aged 12–17 years).

The prevalence of past-year illicit drug use disorders among persons using illicit drugs in the past year varied by metropolitan/nonmetropolitan status and changed over time. Across both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, the prevalence of past-year illicit drug use disorders declined during 2003–2014.

Although both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas experienced significant increases from 2003–2005 to 2012–2014 in self-reported past-month use of illicit drugs, the prevalence was highest for the large metropolitan areas compared with small metropolitan or nonmetropolitan areas throughout the study period. Notably, past-month use of illicit drugs declined over the study period for the youngest respondents (aged 12–17 years).

The prevalence of past-year illicit drug use disorders among persons using illicit drugs in the past year varied by metropolitan/nonmetropolitan status and changed over time. Across both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, the prevalence of past-year illicit drug use disorders declined during 2003–2014.

The National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) collects information through face-to-face household interviews about the use of illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco among the U.S. noninstitutionalized civilian population aged ≥12 years. Respondents include residents of households and noninstitutional group quarters (e.g., shelters, rooming houses, dormitories, migratory workers’ camps, and halfway houses) and civilians living on military bases.

That MMWR specifically points to the fact that in 2015, approximately six times as many drug overdose deaths occurred in metropolitan areas than occurred in nonmetropolitan areas (metropolitan: 45,059; nonmetropolitan: 7,345).

Drug overdose death rates (per 100,000 population) for metropolitan areas were higher than in nonmetropolitan areas in 1999 (6.4 versus 4.0), however, the rates converged in 2004, and by 2015, the nonmetropolitan rate (17.0) was slightly higher than the metropolitan rate (16.2).

Drug use and subsequent overdoses continue to be a critical and complicated public health challenge across metropolitan/nonmetropolitan areas. The decline in illicit drug use by youth and the lower prevalence of illicit drug use disorders in rural areas during 2012–2014 are encouraging signs. However, the increasing rate of drug overdose deaths in rural areas, which surpassed rates in urban areas, is cause for concern.

The full report is available here.

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