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N.Y. among highest rates of drug, alcohol use in country

Nearly 1.4 million New Yorkers abuse or are dependent on alcohol, drugs or both.

 alcohol use problems

Heavy alcohol use is on the rise and causing many problems.

A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provided this and other information about substance abuse and mental health patterns in each state. Rates vary state to state, but all areas of the country are affected to some degree by drug, alcohol and mental health issues.

Nationwide, 9.2 percent of respondents 12 years old and older reported dependence on or abuse of illicit drugs or alcohol in the last year.

New York state had some of the highest rates of drug use in the country. More than 10 percent of people aged 12 and older reported using illicit drugs, which include marijuana, cocaine or heroin.

Stephen Maisto, a psychology professor who specializes in addictions research at Syracuse University, said this comes as no surprise, given New York’s geographical location. Heavy drug use and drinking tend to be more common in the Northeast region of the United States. Maisto said high rates of cocaine use are also partly due to New York’s large cities.

Approximately 2.81 percent of New Yorkers used cocaine in the last year, making it the state with the sixth-highest rate in the country.

“If you were to separate out New York City from the rest of the state, I don’t know where New York would stand,” Maisto said. “The numbers probably wouldn’t be as high. Where the largest cities are, that’s where you see the rates go up.”

Reports like these are helpful for individual researchers, Maisto said, but are also used by policymakers and governments to develop and acquire funding for prevention and treatment programs.

The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) is the largest and most comprehensive treatment, prevention and recovery agency in the country.

OASAS uses data from the yearly SAMHSA reports to implement programs and policies based on the needs of the state.

“I think what you see in the news a lot is: did things go up or down? We want to know that, too, but we also want to know what we are going to do about it,” said Dianne Henk, director of communications at OASAS.

Researchers look at the new data, compare them to reports from previous years and find differences, consistencies and trends. OASAS completes its own surveys and reports and also compares those findings to the numbers in federal reports.

“It’s a big job, and we try to target the areas that we feel we can be effective,” Henk said. “There’s always more to do than what we can do. You just keep going because it makes a difference in people’s lives.”

The findings were categorized by underage alcohol use and binge drinking, illicit drug use, tobacco use, substance dependence and abuse and mental health problems.

Rates of underage binge drinking were lowest in Georgia at 15.2 percent and highest in North Dakota at 28.5 percent. North Dakota had the lowest rates of illicit drug use at 7.7 percent, and Rhode Island had the highest with 11.2 percent.

All estimates are based on the 2005-2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. SAMHSA surveyed 136,110 respondents to gather information about 23 measures of substance abuse and mental health issues.
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source: The Daily Orange
author: Catherine Basham
cvbasham@syr.edu

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