Study: Alcohol Most Abused Substance in Rural Areas

Many rural areas in the United States have been hit by an epidemic of methamphetamine use and prescription drug abuse in recent years – but alcohol remains at the top of the abused-substances list in these locales.

In 2006, the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute for Families and Communities released a report indicating that youth in rural areas and Native American communities remain at considerably high risk for abusing alcohol. Entitled “Substance Abuse in Rural and Small Town America,” the Carsey Institute report resulted from an analysis of data that had been collected during a 2003 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

According to its website, the Carsey Institute is “becoming a leading national center for policy research on youth, working families, and sustainable development in small cities and rural communities.” The institute’s efforts, the site reports, are designed to support those who are working to “increase upward mobility, support the middle class, and create sustainable, healthy communities.” 

The SAMHSA effort, which queried Americans ages 12 and above in both rural and urban settings, revealed the following:

  • About 17 percent of rural citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 reported having a problem related to alcohol.
  • Less than one percent of the members of this same (18-to-25, rural) demographic group reported having used methamphetamine or another similar stimulant.
  • Rural adolescents (ages 12 to 17) reported a seven-percent rate of alcohol abuse or dependences.
  • The rate of alcohol abuse or dependence among rural adults over the age of 25 was 5.6 percent.
  • Among both the 12-to-17 group and the 25-and-above demographic, self-reported stimulant use was found to be less than 0.25 percent.
  • Children in rural households who spend considerable amounts of time without their parents being present are more likely to drink alcohol than are urban youth whose parents are often out of the house.
  • Problems with alcohol are more common in men than women, and more prevalent in unmarried adults than in married ones.

To address this problem the Carsey Institute recommended further creation and development of prevention and treatment programs that are specifically designed to address the unique needs of individuals who live and work in rural communities.