Substance Abuse In Rural Areas

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Although drug abuse is thought often to be a problem in cities, drugs in rural areas are a serious problem.

Rural areas also have high rates of alcohol abuse, tobacco use, and methamphetamine use.

Prescription drug addiction and heroin use is a huge problem in every town across America, but drug rehab is not as common.

Factors that contribute to substance abuse in rural America include low education or poor education, poverty, unemployment, and isolation.

Substance abuse can result in increased illegal activities but also result in poor health.

This means that not only will you start off poor, but you can fall even deeper into poverty.

Then your brain structure will change, which provides you with an increased risk of death from overdose and suicide.

Abuse Signs of Drugs in Rural Areas

Substance abuse occurs when you use any form of mood behavior-altering substances. This can cause you to be impaired, or even in distress. When there is a misuse of drugs in rural areas and communities, you often see prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, alcohol, tobacco, and illegal substances being abused.

Long-term use of these drugs results in addiction almost every time. This is a chronic condition in the brain, and it will not only affect your physical health but also your mental health. Drugs in rural areas can ruin families and ruin lives. This is why it is important to note the signs of addiction.

Behavioral Signs

  • Lack of motivation
  • Repeated absences in school
  • Poor work performance
  • Neglect of children
  • Neglecting household responsibilities
  • Car accidents
  • Interference with sleeping or eating
  • Being secretive
  • Outbreaks of temper
  • General changes in overall attitude
  • Physical appearance and grooming deteriorates
  • Association with drug users
  • Need for money
  • Stealing money or valuables
  • Lying
  • Suspicious behavior

The Effect of Drugs in Rural Areas

Drugs in rural areas can present many problems. Not only might this include increased crime and violence, but also vehicular accidents caused by driving under the influence. Drugs in rural areas also can spread infectious diseases such as Hepatitis and HIV, but also increase the risk for fetal alcohol syndrome. Finally, homelessness and unemployment are the result of drugs in rural areas.

The reason this is the case is due to a few unique problems that rural areas face:

Behavioral Health Services are Not as Readily Available

This means that detox services are hard to find, which means education regarding drugs is not as prevalent.
Isolation: Patients who require treatment for substance abuse may need to travel very far to obtain these services. Resulting in relapse.

Limited First Responder Experience

Typically in big cities, there is more opportunity to learn about taking care of a patient presenting with the physical effects of a drug overdose. This results in overdose or improper care.
Volunteer EMTs unable to provide naloxone: Naloxone is a life-saving drug for those overdosing on prescription opioids or heroin. In many rural areas, there are only volunteer-based EMTs. This means that legally they cannot administer naloxone. This increases the risk of overdose.

Small Police Presence

Law enforcement and prevention programs are rare in rural areas, meaning although there are the same amount of people in a big city and the same amount of police officers, it is spread out over a larger area. This makes it harder to reach people in a safe amount of time.


Patients seeking substance abuse treatment in rural areas may not do so because there is a stigma associated with drug use in small towns, and it is harder to keep things private in smaller communities.

Combating Drugs in Rural Areas

Prevention programs can greatly help to reduce substance abuse in rural communities. This has been shown particularly helpful when focused on adolescents. Programs using evidence-based strategies that involve parents as well as schools and churches to discourage use.

Some methods to aid in this include:

  • Holding town meetings to create awareness.
  • Training law enforcement about liquor license compliance, underage drug use, and detection of impaired drivers.
  • Inviting speakers to talk to children about the consequences of substance abuse.
  • Routine screening in primary care visits to ensure that anyone at risk is taken care of.
  • Collaborating with churches and service clubs to create a support system for anyone in recovery.
  • Training volunteers to identify and refer individuals at risk.
  • Developing substance abuse prevention programs in the community.
  • Providing specialized programs and counseling for those who are pregnant to avoid substance use.
  • Collaborating with human services providers to ensure that families have food, housing, and mental health services.
  • Providing emergency departments, first responders, and the public with training regarding naloxone, as well as access.

How to Prevent the Use of Drugs in Rural Areas

It has been proven that educating children and youth on the dangers of illegal drugs can help to prevent drugs in rural areas. Parents are the number one factor in preventing drug use, so where there are programs to help parents and children avoid use, it does work.

Family-Centered Prevention Programs

These programs work to improve the knowledge and skills of children as well as their parents. It shows you how to avoid drugs, and what to do if you become addicted to them.


Schools can help children avoid drugs immensely. Not only do schools provide a stable and supportive environment, but children can learn things that they need to learn in order to stay away from drugs. For students who do not have a good home life, feeling cared for by teachers and staff is essential to avoiding drugs in rural areas. Children who are successful in school are less likely to drink alcohol or do drugs overall.

Faith-Based Organizations

Because faith can play an important role in promoting substance abuse prevention, going to church or a faith-based organization can be extremely helpful in prevention. Many evidence-based prevention programs have been designed to reduce substance abuse by children and youth by working with schools, churches, and other faith-based groups. This has been proven successful.

Mental Illness and Drugs in Rural Areas

The trouble with living in a rural area is that you will not have access to as many resources as you would in a larger city. This also means that if you struggle with a mental health condition, you may not get the attention you need. This can lead to using drugs in rural areas to overcompensate and self-medicate.

When you struggle with both a mental illness as well as a drug problem, you have a dual diagnosis. What is unfortunate is that these conditions happen together frequently. It is actually a fact that about half of people who have a mental disorder will also struggle with a substance use disorder at some point in their lives. Dual diagnosis means you must obtain treatment for both of your disorders.

Get Help to Stop Using Drugs in Rural Areas

If you are living in a rural area and struggling with drugs in rural areas, then you can contact us to get help.

Although you may not live near us, we offer free insurance verification for treatment and can help you get healthy.

Contact us today at Resurgence Behavioral Health. There is no day but today to get help for your addiction.