Rural communities make up 97% of America’s land area, yet less than 20% of the population lives in these smaller communities. Many don’t suspect these seemingly idyllic rural areas are impacted by substance abuse — a disease that wreaks havoc on both individuals and their families.
From the early 2000s, the number of substance use-related deaths in rural communities has risen, especially in comparison to deaths in urban areas. If you live in a small town or rural region, it’s important to understand how drugs and alcohol can affect your community.
Rural Vs. Urban Substance Abuse
The media is full of headlines about drug use, alcohol abuse, overdose and addicts in major U.S. cities. Yet today, the number of drug overdose deaths is almost 10% higher in rural areas. In particular, abuse of methamphetamines is the number one drug problem in most rural communities. Adults in rural areas also have higher rates of tobacco use, alcohol use and addiction to heroin and prescription drugs.
There are a number of factors contributing to the rising trend of substance abuse in rural areas. For instance, small rural communities often have inadequate access to healthcare and are less likely to have health insurance. Other factors that contribute to drug use in rural America include:
- Poor health
- Lack of educational completion
- Risk-taking behaviors
It’s often less common for people living in rural areas to admit to their drug use. This may be due to the negative stigma attached to addiction, and it may be harder to own up to addiction in a close-knit community. But the number of drug-related deaths in rural areas prove that this epidemic is a serious issue.
The Effects of Substance Abuse on a Rural Community
Substance abuse impacts everyone it touches and creates devastating consequences, whether in a rural or urban community. Some of the problems that rural areas face due to increased substance abuse are:
- Increased crime, violence and illegal activities
- More car accidents caused by those driving under the influence
- Poor academic performance
- Spread of infectious diseases
- Illicit sexual behavior
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- Increased unemployment and homelessness
- Increased risk of death from overdose and suicide
Challenges Rural Communities Face When It Comes to Treatment
People living in rural communities that wish to seek addiction treatment have limited or no access to detox services and other life-saving treatment options. Local healthcare providers often lack information and access to addiction treatment medications. Other roadblocks to seeking treatment include:
- Higher stigma associated with addiction and recovery
- Inadequate means of transportation to travel for treatment
- Lack of funds to pay for treatment
- Limited access to medication-assisted treatment, such as Buprenorphine that is used to help addicts wean off heroin and opioid use
Substance Abuse in Rural Illinois Communities
While the entire United States is experiencing an opioid epidemic, this crisis has hit rural Illinois particularly hard. Across the state, the widespread prevalence of opioid addiction continues to rise, while there is a huge gap in the availability of addiction services for rural Illinois communities.
In 2016, 2,278 people in Illinois died of an overdose, and 80% of these were opioid-related. There is a documented need for detox services and medication-assisted treatment in rural areas across Illinois.
Treatments Available for Addicts in Rural Communities
Substance abuse care is critical to ensure addiction can be addressed and treated in rural communities. To begin your recovery journey, turn to the evidence-based treatment programs at Gateway Foundation. We have 14 locations throughout the state, offering a full continuum of substance abuse treatment for adults and adolescents.
If you’re ready to turn your life around, contact Gateway Foundation today. Our life-saving treatment programs will help break this cycle of substance abuse in rural communities.