Substance Abuse and Addiction in Rural Communities - ARISE

Understanding the Effects of Substance Abuse and Addiction in Rural Communities

Addiction is often pictured in the media as a “city problem.” While there may be higher volumes of drugs and alcohol in metropolitan areas, that is only because there are more people in urban areas. Rural residents are older in age and poorer in health so many people are under the impression that substance abuse isn’t as big of an issue in rural communities, but this isn’t true.

Rural communities also struggle with substance abuse and addiction, and the effects of substance abuse can be even more harmful to rural communities than urban ones due to the availability of accessible resources.

Rural communities are defined as areas with less than 2,500 people. Nearly 46 million U.S. residents, or 14% of the population, live in rural areas, but 97% of the United States’ land area consists of rural areas. Residents living in rural landscapes may live several miles from their nearest neighbor, and hundreds from their nearest mental health treatment facility. As a result, resources for rural individuals struggling with addiction are sparse, and often inaccessible.

Why is Substance Abuse Such a Large Problem in Rural America?

Substance abuse and addiction can affect anyone from any walk of life, however, rural communities experience specific risk factors that make this population more susceptible to addictions of all kinds.

Rural areas have also been hit incredibly hard by the effects of the opioid crisis. States with predominantly rural populations, including Oklahoma, Alaska, West Virginia, and Kentucky, experience higher rates of opioid overdose deaths than predominantly urban states.

Some of the most important factors contributing to substance abuse in rural American include:

  • Lower levels of educational attainment than urban communities
  • Poorer education quality due to insufficient funding
  • Higher poverty levels
  • Higher rates of unemployment
  • Lack of accessible mental health resources
  • Isolation from others

While none of these factors destine a person to a life of addiction, they do have the potential to decrease the overall quality of life, contribute to mental illness, and increase the risk of lifetime substance abuse. For example, studies have found that people who obtain lower levels of education are more likely to suffer from a substance use disorder later in life. While rural students are more likely to complete high school in four years than the national average, the quality of education doesn’t always meet high standards. Then, after high school, rural residents are 10-15% less likely to go to college for further education than urban residents.

Additionally, nearly half of rural students belong to low-income families, indicating that many rural citizens experience more than one risk factor for substance abuse. As of 2019, poverty levels were significantly higher in rural areas than they were in metro areas.

substance abuse and addiction in rural communities

Commonly Abused Substances in Rural Communities

According to the Rural Health Information Hub, the most widely abused substances in rural towns include:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Stimulants (primarily methamphetamine or crystal meth)
  • Opioids
  • Nicotine

Research indicates that rural youths aged 12-20 are more likely to abuse alcohol, engage in binge drinking, smoke cigarettes, and use meth more than their small and large metroplex dwelling counterparts. They are also slightly more likely to abuse opioids.

Understanding the Devastating Effects of Substance Abuse and Addiction in Rural Communities

Drug and alcohol abuse can present a host of devastating problems to rural communities, families, and individuals. Substance abuse can lead to increased crime, violence, motor vehicle incidents caused by intoxicated driving, homelessness, unemployment, risky sexual behavior, and fetal alcohol syndrome.

These issues can affect any community that experiences high rates of addiction, but they pose a unique threat to rural communities due to rural infrastructure and fewer resources. For example, law enforcement and prevention programs are often sparsely distributed over larger geographical areas in rural regions, so police may take longer to respond to drug-related crimes and EMS may take longer to reach medical scenes such as overdoses. Consequences such as these can cause catastrophic harm to rural communities.

Challenges for Rural Residents Seeking Addiction Treatment

Urban areas, such as San Diego, are ripe with mental health and behavioral treatment resources, but this isn’t always the case in rural communities. Rural residents sometimes have to travel long distances to receive the services they need because medical facilities are more spread out. Residents are also less likely to have health insurance or adequate coverage.

In addition to the lack of available, accessible resources, other barriers that may make rural individuals hesitant to seek treatment for addiction include:

  • Privacy issues – Patients who receive treatment at a rural facility are more likely to run into someone they know or experience privacy issues, so they fear that others will find out about their addiction if they get help.
  • Finances – Low income, unemployment, and financial insecurity combined with poor insurance coverage can make it difficult for some people to afford treatment services.
  • Family, work, or school – Responsibilities such as caring for children or loved ones, going to work to provide for one’s family, or obtaining one’s education can all stop a person from seeking the treatment they need.
  • Fear of traveling for rehab – Even when it is practical for a rural person to travel for rehab, they may be hesitant to do so because they are scared of being so far away from family and friends. Familiarity brings comfort, so going far away from home can be challenging.

Despite these barriers, recovery is possible with help from an evidence-based recovery program.

Finding Personalized Addiction Treatment for Rural Americans

Since the most impactful roadblock to treatment for rural Americans is access to treatment services, many people who are in need of treatment must travel to receive care. If they are attending a residential program, they can go to rehab anywhere in the United States that they choose. However, if they are attending an outpatient program, individuals must find a treatment center that is close enough to travel back and forth each day.

Another option is to travel for outpatient treatment but live in a sober living home. A sober living home can provide accountability, structure, and safe housing as someone completes treatment.

addiction treatment for rural americans

In many cases, people find that they benefit immensely from traveling for rehab. Traveling to California for rehab can provide patients with warm weather, plenty of sunshine, an active and engaged recovery community, and access to some of the highest-rated addiction treatment facilities in the nation. Going away for treatment also gives people a wider range of treatment options and facilities to choose from, so they are more likely to get the individualized treatment that meets their unique needs.

Find Help Today

At ARISE Treatment Center, we are in-network with most major insurance providers and are dedicated to patient excellence. Many of our patients come from out-of-state to receive treatment because they know that treatment here really works.

Our newly updated inpatient residential drug rehab center can provide you with a relaxing, comfortable, and luxurious experience. Located in Vista, California, our residential rehabilitation facility is intended to help you recover in a structured, and supportive environment. With a home that is set up with your recovery in mind, you’ll find that each aspect of our residential drug treatment program is carefully thought out and designed to deliver you an outstanding recovery experience.

Don’t wait any longer. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please contact us today. Our compassionate admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to verify your insurance and help you begin your recovery journey.


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