Report: Number of people receiving treatment for addiction jumps

SAMHSA found a significant decline in new heroin users last year. (Pixabay)

The number of people receiving treatment for addiction to illicit drugs increased notably between 2016 and 2017, according to a new report.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released its annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health and found that the number of people receiving treatment for illicit drug use overall increased from 9.2% in 2016 to 13% in 2017.

The increase was especially pronounced for patients who abuse heroin or other related drugs; the rate jumped from 37.5% to 54.9%.


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The survey—meant to help government officials, medical professionals and researchers understand the scope and changing trends of substance abuse—included responses from more than 67,500 people from across all 50 states. Overall, SAMHSA estimates that 7.6% of Americans aged 18 or older, or 18.7 million, have a substance abuse disorder and 18.9%, or 46.6 million, have a mental health condition.

SAMHSA projects that 8.5 million Americans over 18, or about 3.4%, have both a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder.

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Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the survey provides a “complete, accurate picture” of how addiction is impacting the U.S.

“These data are a reminder of why President Trump and HHS have made opioid addiction and drug use a key priority,” Azar said.

Though the survey shows an increase in people receiving treatment for opioid abuse disorders, the number of people who abuse opioids remains high. SAMHSA estimates that 11.4 million people misused an opioid in 2017, a slight decline from 2016. Of that, 11.1 million misused prescription opioids, according to the report.

There are bright spots, however. The number of overall opioid users declined notably from 12.7 million in 2015, for example.

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SAMHSA also found that the number of new heroin users dropped significantly in 2017. The number of heroin initiates dropped from 170,000 in 2016 to 80,000 in 2017. The overall number of heroin users also declined from 948,000 to 886,000.

“This speaks to the efforts that we have made at federal level both at SAMHSA within HHS and other federal agencies, as well as our partnership with states and communities to inform Americans about the dangers of the use of heroin and the importance of recognizing that heroin today is often contaminated with other potent opioids that represent a significant risk for overdose and, potentially death,” Elinore McCance-Katz, M.D., Ph.D., assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, said.

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