Pubdate: Thu, 20 Jul 2006
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2006 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Meg Haskell
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methadone)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


A new report from the University of New Hampshire concludes that, 
despite a widely reported surge in the use of the illegal stimulant 
drug methamphetamine and the continued abuse of other drugs, alcohol 
remains the leading substance abuse problem in rural areas of the 
United States. The study has policy implications for the design and 
funding of rural treatment programs.

In Maine, where methamphetamine has yet to surface as a major 
problem, the abuse of prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Xanax and 
methadone is still on the rise, while heroin, cocaine and other 
illegal substances continue to make their way into the state. But 
according to treatment data from the Maine Office of Substance Abuse, 
alcohol abuse outstrips them all.

The new report, Substance Abuse in Rural and Small Town America, was 
released this week by the Carsey Institute for Families and 
Communities at UNH. Based on self-reported behaviors gathered in a 
2003 national survey of rural and urban Americans ages 12 and older, 
the study reveals that problem drinking at all ages is far more 
common than other drug abuse in rural areas. The survey was conducted 
by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Of those interviewed, nearly 17 percent of young adults between 18 
and 25 years old living in rural areas reported a drinking problem, 
while fewer than 1 percent reported using methamphetamine or other stimulants.

Almost 7 percent of rural youngsters ages 12 to 17 and 5.6 percent of 
rural adults over 25 reported recent abuse or dependence on alcohol. 
Stimulant use in these groups was less than a quarter of 1 percent, 
according to the survey data.

Drinking among rural youth is worse in households where children 
spend time without parents present, the study shows. Among young 
adults in rural areas, males are nearly twice as likely to report a 
drinking problem as females, and unmarried adults are more likely to 
report a drinking problem than married adults.

"I would hope that a report like this would show that [alcohol abuse 
treatment] is where the money needs to be spent," said UNH researcher 
Karen VanGundy, author of the report. While methamphetamine is 
undoubtedly a scourge in some areas of the country, she said, alcohol 
treatment should be given high priority.

In Maine, data from the Office of Substance Abuse reveals that of 
18,620 people admitted to substance abuse treatment programs in 2005, 
12,211 or more than 65 percent, listed alcohol as the primary drug of 
abuse. Just 50 people sought help for dependence on methamphetamine. 
Addiction to heroin or morphine accounted for 1,054 admissions, 
methadone for 230 admissions and other opiates for 1,784 admissions. 
People seeking treatment for dependence on marijuana numbered 1,424.

Roy McKinney of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, said 
methamphetamine is present in Maine but has not become a major 
problem yet. In the past 12 months, he said, there have been 31 
meth-related arrests in Maine, 23 of them in Aroostook County. Of 
those, 11 were related to the manufacture or sale of meth, eight were 
for possession and four were on other related charges. Other 
meth-related arrests were made in Androscoggin, Cumberland and York counties.

McKinney said there have been five methamphetamine laboratories found 
in Maine in the past year - two in Caribou and one each in Allagash, 
Lewiston and Auburn. Maine's recent enactment of a law that limits 
the purchase of the over-the-counter drug psuedephedrine, an 
ingredient in methamphetamine, has successfully dampened the 
activities of would-be manufacturers, he said, but methamphetamine is 
now being shipped into the state, primarily from dealers in 
southwestern states and Canada.

McKinney said there has been a recent increase in the use of cocaine 
in Maine and added that people who use that stimulant drug are often 
attracted to methamphetamine.

Despite the growing presence of methamphetamine, alcohol remains by 
far the most prevalent substance abuse problem in the state.

Pat Kimball, director of the Wellspring recovery programs in Bangor, 
said 59 percent of Wellspring's outpatient clients list alcohol as 
their primary drug, while 23 percent list opiates. Crack cocaine, 
marijuana and other drugs account for the remaining outpatient 
clients, she said. In Wellspring's residential programs, alcohol is 
the drug of choice for 56 percent of men and 25 percent of women.

"Clearly, alcohol is a major problem that can't be ignored," she said.

Kimball said funding for substance abuse and addiction treatment in 
Maine is spread so thin that many people have to wait to get into 
treatment while those with the most acute needs get priority. "It's 
run like a hospital emergency department," she said. "People who 
aren't 'ill enough' can't get treated."

The Carsey Institute report can be found online at

Additional information on substance abuse in Maine is available at
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman