It will perhaps come as no surprise that drug use in the United States has reached epidemic proportions. And with the widespread nature of an epidemic, that means its effects can be seen just about everywhere you look. In fact, the places that were once the most idyllic spots in the country are now at the epicentre of this public health emergency.
Statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) tend to show its not only small town drug abuse that’s on the rise.
In fact, from 2014 onward, each of these increased:
- The number of deaths involving psychostimulants
- Overdose deaths involving cocaine
- The number of deaths in combination with any opioid
- Deaths involving benzodiazepines in combination with other synthetic narcotics
A significant proportion of these overdose deaths are happening in small towns. Often, where we would least expect it. It’s important to understand what contributes to the alarming rise of small town drug abuse in order to begin combating it.
Factors contributing to small town drug abuse
As for why drug use is increasing in these areas, there’s no one right answer. Small town drug abuse has been on the rise for a number of reasons:
- Lacking access to mental health resources
- Inadequate law enforcement coverage
It’s also worth discussing in greater detail two of the substances closely associated with the rise in drug abuse in small towns: opioids and methamphetamines.
Opioid abuse in small towns
The “Opioid Crisis” is called a crisis for a good reason: data from 2018 shows that each day, 128 people died from an opioid overdose in the United States. Misusing and abusing opioids like prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids including fentanyl is alarmingly common.
Consider these shocking statistics from NIH:
- Between 21-29% of people who are prescribed these drugs for pain end up misusing them.
- Between 8-12% also develop an opioid use disorder.
- About 80% of heroin users started by misusing opioids.
Small towns have been hit particularly hard by these numbers. And to understand the small town opioid crisis, it’s important to also consider the people who live in these areas. Often, they are employed in labor-intensive jobs where injuries are common.
As we just covered, opioid abuse often begins with a prescription to painkillers. So, once these hard-working people are prescribed opioid pain medication, it makes for the perfect storm of opioid addiction in small towns.
Meth addiction in small towns
In addition to the opioid crisis in small towns, methamphetamine abuse in small towns is equally alarming. One 2018 study found that meth was more accessible in small towns than marijuana. Statistics like that go to show just how prevalent this dangerous drug has become.
On top of being readily available in rural areas, methamphetamine is also a cheap drug. Not only do small town residents not need to go far to get this drug, but they also don’t need to break the bank to afford it.
As you can imagine, this makes for a dangerous combination. Methamphetamines are also particularly addictive and potent, and a lack of treatment and resources in small towns means long-term abuse is likely.
Small towns face unique challenges
In addition to the unique factors that contribute to drug use in these areas, there are also unique challenges that get in the way of combating drug abuse.
One of the factors that leads many people in small towns to abuse substances—isolation—can also be a challenge for receiving treatment and help. Often, the resources and support needed to overcome addiction are inaccessible due to their geography. There simply aren’t enough addiction treatment options in and around most small towns.
Small towns are also known for being tight-knit. In bigger cities, it might be possible to seek drug treatment without everyone you know finding out. In small towns, this type of privacy is much less likely. Unfortunately, the remaining shame and stigma that surrounds the brave decision to seek addiction treatment is often enough to prevent getting help altogether.
What about alcohol abuse in small towns?
While the focus of this article is on small town drug abuse, alcohol abuse, particularly among youths, is also on the rise.
In fact, the prevalence of binge alcohol use by youths is higher (5.4%) in rural areas than in both small and large metro areas. Another startling statistic regarding alcohol abuse in small towns has to do with the number of deadly crashes associated with alcohol.
A report from Traffic Safety Facts, 2018 Data: Rural/Urban Comparison of Traffic Fatalities finds:
“There were 10,511 people in the U.S. killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers in 2018. Rural areas accounted for 45% (4,714) of these fatalities and 29% of all rural traffic fatalities were alcohol-related.”
Considering the smaller populations in rural communities versus metropolitan areas, the numbers indicate the prevalence of small town alcohol abuse.
The reasons behind the increase in small town alcohol abuse are similar to the reasons contributing to drug abuse. At the same time, rural communities may have lower levels of parental disapproval of underage drinking.
Whether it’s small town drug abuse or alcohol abuse, what can be done to battle substance abuse?
Combatting small town drug abuse
Many small towns have started implementing strategies to fight substance abuse in their areas. Some barriers, including limited geographical access, may be difficult to overcome.
However, there are still many things that can be done to start combatting small town drug abuse.
Here are a few of the strategies small towns are employing to combat substance abuse outlined by the Rural Health Information Hub:
- Conducting community and town hall meetings to bring light to the issues
- Educating citizens about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse
- Routine screening at primary care appointments to spot high-risk children and youths
- Working with local churches, service clubs, and employers to create a collaborative support system for individuals in recovery
- Specialized programs and counseling to discourage substance use by pregnant women
- Working with human services providers and local service organizations to ensure families affected by substance use disorder have access to adequate food, housing, and mental health services
- Providing local law enforcement and first responders with the education and training they need to use overdose reversal drugs
- Enhanced law enforcement training surrounding liquor license compliance, underage drinking, and detecting impaired drivers
Just Believe Recovery Center is here to help
Whether you live in a small town or a large metropolitan area, Just Believe Recovery Center in Jensen Beach is here to help. In addition to our inpatient treatment services, there are a number of other ways we can support you. If someone you love is dealing with an addiction, you’ll find plenty of resources on our blog to help answer some of the questions you have.
We also know it can be difficult to arrange travel to rehab facilities. No matter where you are coming from, we can help remove this barrier from you seeking treatment. We offer transportation from Miami International Airport, Hollywood International Airport, Palm Beach International Airport, and Orlando International Airport.
Whether you require medical detox, inpatient rehabilitation, a partial hospitalization program, or any of our other treatment options, we can help. We are a fully licensed, Joint Commission accredited, comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment center in Jensen Beach, Florida. We work with people from all over Florida, as well as small towns across America.
No matter where you come from, we have substance abuse treatment programs that work.
Click here to contact us today and learn more.