4 Important Things to Know about the Problem of Substance Abuse in the State of New York


Known primarily for its thriving economy, tourism, and for being home to the world’s leading financial center, the state of New York may appear unperturbed by the substance use problem plaguing the United States. But, in reality, The Empire State is facing the same struggle. According to estimates by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), 3 out of 25 residents aged 12 and above experience a substance use disorder every year. And on any given day, over a hundred thousand individuals enroll in state programs, which include treatment in New York’s drug and alcohol rehab centers.

The numbers above clearly show that no population group is completely immune to the problem of substance abuse and its damaging effects. Addiction affects people at all levels of society, including those from wealthy and thriving areas. If you are interested to learn more about this problem plaguing the state of New York, below are some key things you should know about.

The State Ranks High in Illicit Drug Use

The use of illegal drugs in the country is on the rise. Results of the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) show that 19.4% or close to 1 in 5 people above 11 years old used an illicit substance in the past year, which is higher than the prevalence rate in 2015 and 2016. When the findings are scrutinized by state, they will show that New York ranks high in illicit drug use.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) divided the 50 states into five groups according to their ranking on various measures of the prevalence of illegal drug use—highest, next highest, mid group, next lowest, and lowest groups. The result of this grouping and ranking revealed that New York is one of the ten states with the highest cocaine use incidence in the past year among adults aged 26 and above. The state is also included in the top 20 (next highest group) in terms of the following:

  • Illicit drug use in the past month among people aged 12 and above.
  • Marijuana use in the past year and past month among individuals aged 12 and above and adults aged 18 to 25.
  • Illicit drug use disorder among adults 18 to 25 years old.
  • Individuals aged 18 and older who are needing but not receiving treatment at a specialty facility for illicit drug use in the past year.

Marijuana Use in NY Is Higher Than the National Average

Marijuana comes from the cannabis plant and is the most commonly used addictive drug in the country. While New York only allows the limited use of medical marijuana, many residents still use cannabis recreationally. Data from the SAMHSA show that the number of marijuana users among people aged 12 or older in the state is close to 15 percent of the population or more than 2.4 million people.  This percentage is higher than the national average of 13.9 percent.

It is important to note that despite the increasing acceptance and attempts of the state government to fully legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, its use still poses genuine risks. The National Institute on Drug Abuse warns that people who start using cannabis before turning 18 years old are four to seven times more likely to develop marijuana use disorder.

Interestingly, the annual average prevalence (2014-2017) of marijuana use disorder in New York State among individuals aged 12 to 17 years old was 1.7 percent, which is slightly higher than the regional average of 1.5 percent. Among young adults aged 18 to 25, the rate was at 6 percent during the same period, which is also higher than the 5.6 percent regional average.

Opioid Overdose Deaths in the State Increased by 200 Percent between 2010 and 2017

Death from opioid poisoning is a national problem. The National Safety Council shared that the odds of dying from accidental opioid overdoses continue to be greater than dying in motor vehicle crashes. In 2018 alone, close to 50,000 people perished due to opioid overdose.

While New York is not the leading state with the most severe opioid problem, the area continues to experience a steady rise in opioid misuse and dependency leading to fatal overdoses. The number of opioid overdose deaths in the state increased from 1,074 in 2010 to 3,224 in 2017, a staggering 200 percent surge despite the recent reduction in prescription opioid sales in the state. Note that the use of synthetic opioids (other than methadone), primarily fentanyl, caused most of the increase.

Over a Million People in NY as Young as 12 Years Old Suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder

Underage alcohol consumption is a major problem in the country. Excessive drinking among individuals less than 21 years old resulted in over 3,500 deaths and 210,000 years of potential life lost according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In New York, 1,054,000 of the population aged 12 to 20 years old admitted to past-month alcohol use in 2017 alone. Needless to say, underage drinking is harmful as it can lead to numerous physical, mental, psychological, and social issues.

Studies also show that early alcohol use can lead to multiple problems later in life, including alcohol use disorder. Interestingly, over a million individuals (6.1 percent) aged 12 or older suffer from alcohol use disorder in New York State every year between 2014 and 2017, which is higher than the regional average of 5.7 percent.

Given the information above, it is evident that the problem of substance use disorder does not discriminate. It afflicts even one of the most progressive and wealthiest places in the world. As such, policymakers and community leaders should be ready to fight the crisis using a multipronged approach of education, prevention, treatment, and recovery services.

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Medical Disclaimer

The information provided on this website is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. The content on the website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, treatment, or advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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