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Report: Most Substance Use Treatment in State Centers on Alcohol, Meth

Report: Most Substance Use Treatment in State Centers on Alcohol, Meth

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Rural Drug Addiction Research Center has released a new report detailing state admissions to publicly funded substance use treatment centers in 2017. 

Utilizing the Treatment Episode Data Set, which tracks both admissions and discharges from treatment facilities, the report looks specifically at the differences among admissions in metropolitan — defined as population centers of more than 50,000 — and micropolitan — with populations of less than 50,000, but more than 10,000 — areas, as well as “outside” or rural areas. 

There were 13,467 admissions to state publicly funded treatment facilities in 2017, and 52.61% of those admissions were in metropolitan areas, such as Omaha, Lincoln and Grand Island. Micropolitan admissions were 18.24% of the total, while outside areas reported 29.15% of all admissions. 

Most seeking treatment were admitted for one of three substances: alcohol, methamphetamine and marijuana. These three substances contributed to 87.55% of all admissions. Breaking those numbers down, admissions for alcohol use made up 56.32%, methamphetamine 21.51% and marijuana 9.72%. 

The authors of the report, Patrick Habecker, assistant research professor at RDAR, and Ryan Herrschaft, center researcher, said it is important to look at data from a local perspective within a larger state profile. 

“You want to know what variation there is within the state of Nebraska,” Habecker said. “It might be easy to assume that a large majority of admissions are in Omaha and Lincoln and simply push resources in that direction. We show that about 47% of admissions are in other places, and that almost a third of the total admissions are in counties with less than 10,000 people. 

“In short, it is a mistake to assume that all areas of Nebraska see the same substance use admissions. If we want to effectively use our resources, we need to look at these smaller areas and really go beyond what is in this report and look at more precise profiles.” 

When Habecker and Herrschaft broke down the data by metropolitan, micropolitan and outside areas, it showed that alcohol is the most reported substance of use at admission in all areas, but that methamphetamine was more common in micropolitan areas than in metro areas. 

In metropolitan areas, treatment facilities reported that alcohol made up 62.17% of admissions, while in micropolitan areas, alcohol only constituted 33.92%. Meanwhile, methamphetamine played a larger role in micropolitan areas, making up 34.36% of admissions, compared to 17.66% in metropolitan areas. Outside regions were more similar to metropolitan areas, with 59.76% and 20.43% of admissions for alcohol and methamphetamine, respectively. 

“Admissions only show part of the overall substance use profile of an area,” Habecker said. “People who use methamphetamine who do not seek treatment or are not directed to treatment through criminal justice systems are not represented by this data. With that said, we do see a higher proportion of admissions listing methamphetamine in micropolitan areas than in either metropolitan or other areas of the state. 

“Methamphetamine certainly seems to continue to be cast as a rural substance, but I don’t think it is that simple and it is something that we plan to continue to look at.” 

The Rural Drug Addiction Research Center will continue to release reports on substance use in Nebraska and the surrounding region, Habecker said. 

“One of our goals with this series is to make substance-focused data easier to find and use,” Habecker said. “We will be focusing on two federal data collection projects — the TEDS data we use here and the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, a general population survey. Both of these data sets provide national and state-level reports, but those reports can be hundreds of pages long and quite technical. We want to translate that into shorter reports that focus on Nebraska and our region. 

“There is often a one- to two-year lag in data being released, and we plan to make these yearly reports that update as data comes out. Neither data set is perfect, but together we can get a better view of substance use in Nebraska and how it changes over time.”

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