Substance Abuse In Missouri: Statistics and Trends

Substance abuse poses a compelling threat to public health in America. Each year, its citizens struggle with the devastating consequences of drug-related illnesses. Overdoses are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year, and federal data suggests the problem is getting worse. In 2008, drug abuse surpassed motor vehicle accidents and firearms incidents to become the leading cause of accidental death in the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s largest public health agency, has declared substance abuse an epidemic.

The largest driving factor in America’s struggle with addiction has been a marked increase in opioid and heroin abuse. Nearly two-thirds of overdoses in 2015 were the result of one of these drugs. Today’s illicit opioid market is busier and more dangerous than ever, thanks to the ready availability of prescription drugs on the black market and illicit production of other drugs, including Fentanyl, an opioid that can be 100 times stronger than morphine.

Missouri Struggles with Heroin and Alcohol

Addiction Treatment - MissouriMissouri’s substance and opioid abuse rates are similar to the national average. According to 2015 data from the Missouri Department of Mental Health, nearly 9% of Missouri residents admitted to a struggle with substance abuse. According to their treatment intake data, admissions related to heroin, methamphetamine, and prescription opioids have increased steadily during the past few years. Heroin accounted for 6,000 admissions in 2014, while prescription pain relievers accounted for another 1,200.

While these are the fastest-growing segments of substance abuse in Missouri, the state’s most prevalent problem remains alcohol abuse. More than a third (37%) of Missouri’s state-funded treatment admissions were for alcohol abuse. Additionally, state emergency room data reports 20,000 visits each year from alcohol abuse, compared to 12,000 for abuse of other drugs.

The state’s Department of Mental Health recognizes depression and other mental illnesses as important comorbidities and risk factors for substance abuse. Missouri has a higher prevalence of mental illness than the national average, with nearly a fifth of the population suffering from a mental health disorder. These factors combine to make drug abuse and its related problems huge concerns for Missouri residents.

Addiction Treatment in Missouri

These statistics point to an inherent problem in Missouri’s substance abuse control and treatment systems. The state simply lacks the resources to address the unique needs of citizens suffering from alcohol abuse, illicit drug abuse, and other forms of mental illness effectively. Alcohol and drug abuse affect more than just the addict; drug-related illnesses tear families apart and create widespread discord within a community. Drug and alcohol abuse in Missouri has strong ties to suicide risk, which creates a compelling call to help those who struggle under the weight of addiction.

Every death from substance abuse is preventable with timely intervention and the right treatment plan. Addiction is a lifelong and complex disease that requires a supportive existing mental health infrastructure and access to treatment. Patients who receive comprehensive treatment with a multidisciplinary approach are more likely to sustain long-term recovery.

Missouri does have a number of state-funded treatment centers, mostly patients diverted from the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, small budgets and a lack of resources to address the needs of every patient effectively constrain these treatment centers.

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