substance abuse

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The COVID-19 crisis disrupted life for everyone. But it's a unique challenge for those battling addiction. In-person meetings are often an essential part of the recovery process. Those in the recovery community are finding new ways to meet those needs during the coronavirus pandemic.

First Lady Nancy Reagan speaking at a "Just Say No" Rally in Los Angeles.
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

"Just Say No" is not enough anymore, according to a new report from the Trust for America's Health.

The health advocacy non-profit cites research showing that rates of illicit drug use among teens haven’t improved since 1994, though alcohol and tobacco use among teens declined significantly in that time. And, drug overdose death rates among 12- to 25-year-olds have risen dramatically since 2001. The most recent data, which is from 2011-2013, shows overdose death rates had doubled in 18 states, more than tripled in 12 states, and more than quadrupled in five states.

If you've ever had surgery, you may have been given an analgesic named fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a favored painkiller because it acts fast. But it's also 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The powerful drug has made its way to the streets and increasingly is being used to cut heroin — resulting in a deadly combination.

children of different races
McGeorge BLSA via Flickr/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

The health of America’s children is improving along four key measures: low birth weight, health insurance coverage, child and teen death, and substance abuse. Economic indicators, however, paint a gloomier picture, with childhood poverty staying stagnant or worsening. That’s according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book, published Tuesday. The report measures the effects of economics, education, family and health on children’s wellbeing. The researchers focused on changes between 2008 and 2013.

Seth Herald / Side Effects Public Media

On a recent afternoon, Brittany Combs drove a white SUV through a neighborhood at the northern end of Austin, Indiana. In the back of her vehicle, there were hundreds of sterile syringes, each in a plastic wrapper.


Number of Providers per 1,000 Adults with Addictions
Jeff Zornitsky / Advocates for Human Potential

This story was provided to Sound Medicine by Stateline, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The number of people with insurance coverage for alcohol and drug abuse disorders is about to explode at a time there’s already a severe shortage of trained behavioral health professionals in many states.

Until now, there’s been no data on just how severe the shortage is and where it’s most dire.  Jeff Zornitsky of the health care consulting firm Advocates for Human Potential (AHP) has developed the first measurement of how many behavioral health professionals are available to treat millions of adults with a substance use disorder, or SUD, in all 50 states.

Zornitsky’s “provider availability index” – the number of psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and social workers available to treat every 1,000 people with SUD – ranges from a high of 70 in Vermont to a low of 11 in Nevada. Nationally, the average is 32 behavioral health specialists for every 1,000 people afflicted with the disorder.  No one has determined what the ideal number of providers should be, but experts agree the current workforce is inadequate in most parts of the country.

“Right now we’re in a severe workforce crisis,” said Becky Vaughn, addictions director for the industry organization National Council for Behavioral Health.  The shortage has consequences, she said. “When people need help for addictions, they need it right away. There’s no such thing as a waiting list. If you put someone on a waiting list, you won’t be able to find them the next day.”

The shortage of specialists threatens to stall a national movement to bring the prevention and treatment of SUD into the mainstream of American medicine at a time when millions of people with addictions have a greater ability to pay for treatment thanks to insurance.