SAMHSA Announces Good News about Americans’ Behavioral Health

Nation’s Mental Health Improving

With constant news reports about the horrifying illegal drug epidemics supposedly dooming the country, the latest release from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) comes as a breath of fresh air. Their latest edition of the National Behavioral Health Barometer, an analysis of data from several federal and state surveys, shows that there are some positive trends in our nation’s state of overall mental and behavioral health.[1]

Some Key Numbers from the Report

  • Past month use of both illicit drugs and cigarettes has declined among youth ages 12-17, from 2009 – 2013.
  • Past month binge drinking among children ages 12 -17 declined from 8.9 percent to 6.2 percent, from 2009 – 2013.
  • The number of people receiving help for a substance abuse problem increased six percent, from 2009 – 2013.
  • The number of adults experiencing mental illness and receiving help for it increased from 62.9 percent to 68.5 percent in 2013.
  • 2.6 million adolescents, ages 12 -17, dealt with at least one major depressive episode within one year of being surveyed in 2013; 38.1 percent received treatment.

A Closer Look at the Nation’s Mental Health

Despite some of the overall encouraging numbers found in the report, there are clearly still a lot of Americans of all ages dealing with significant mental health issues and not receiving help.

Additionally, there appeared to be a correlation between individuals struggling with poverty or not having health insurance, and dealing with certain mental health issues.

For instance, there were 9.3 million adults who reported having serious thoughts of suicide within the year prior to being surveyed. Of those, there was a higher percentage who did not have health insurance and an even higher percentage of those who lived in households with incomes lower than the Federal Poverty Level.

Only 1.1 million of the 17.3 million people age 12 or older with alcohol dependence in the year prior to the survey got any help.

The same could be said for adults who reported having a serious mental illness within the year prior to being surveyed. Of the estimated 10 million reporting serious mental illness, 13.6 percent either had no health insurance or lived below the poverty level; compared to 7.5 percent who were insured and/or living at or above the poverty level.

On the positive side, it appears these adults struggling with their mental health got the help they needed in higher numbers than in years past. Nearly seven million adults received treatment (68.5 percent) for depression in 2013; an increase in percentage from 2012 (62.9 percent). However, health insurance played a factor in this as well. Of the adults dealing with serious mental illness who had insurance, 73.5 percent received treatment. Of those who did not have health insurance, 50.6 percent received treatment.

An Examination of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Trends

While overall substance abuse numbers have not changed significantly since 2009, it appears that fewer youths were abusing at the same rates of years past, especially in terms of previous month usage. Nonmedical pain reliever use, illicit drug use and alcohol binging among adolescents ages 12-17 all saw decreases in past month usage from the previous year. Marijuana was the only drug which saw an increase in last month usage among adolescents; along with psychotherapeutics, marijuana is the most commonly abused drug by adolescents, according to the report.

It wasn’t all good news for America’s youth, however. It was reported that 6.6 percent of adolescents, ages 12 -17 (17.3 million) were dependent on or abused alcohol within the year prior to being surveyed. In 2013, young adults ages 18-25 had the highest percentage of alcohol dependence and abuse of any age group demographic. The 18 -25 age group also had the highest rates of illicit drug abuse and dependence.

As far as receiving substance abuse treatment, there appears to be a mixed bag of results. On one hand, a single day count of people enrolled in substance abuse treatment in 2013 increased for a third consecutive year, to 1.249 million. However, only 1.1 million of the 17.3 million people age 12 or older with alcohol dependence in the year prior to the survey got any help; 90.6 percent did not perceive a need for treatment. Only 13.4 percent of those with a drug dependence problem reported within a year prior to the survey received treatment for substance abuse; 80.9 percent did not perceive a need for treatment.

A Constant Work in Progress

There were both promising and troubling numbers found in the SAMHSA annual report, and there is undeniably still much work to be done. While it appears that many have resisted the urge to abuse drugs and alcohol, and those who develop dependencies are getting help more than ever before, there are still far too many people who do not receive treatment and do not perceive the need for it. Even further, there are still millions of adolescents, teenagers and young adults who are falling into addiction far too early.

Continuing to educate the public is the only way to keep the downward trends going. People of all ages need to be made aware of the dangers of substance abuse, the harsh realities of addiction and the need for rehabilitation. A change in perception about drug and alcohol abuse leads to a change in usage.

Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches helps individuals and families defeat the scourge of addiction and has been doing so since 1997. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism or addiction, the problem will almost certainly not improve on its own. The best way to defeat addiction is to get professional help. Contact us today to speak to one of our representatives and learn more about our rehab services and how we can help you.