The state of Utah is home to over 3 million people, with around a third of the population residing in the capital Salt Lake City. Like most American states, Utah is home to many people who suffer from drug abuse and mental health problems. This blog offers some important substance abuse statistics for Utah and across the nation.
Substance use disorders are when the recurrent use of alcohol or drugs causes significant damage to a person’s health, work, school, or family life. Illicit drug disorders are types of substance use disorders that involve illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Alcohol use disorders are substance use disorders involving alcohol.
Prevalence of Substance Use Disorders
In November 2021, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report showing that drug overdose deaths in the United States in a 12-month period had reached over 100,000 for the first time, a 29% increase on the previous year. While the increase in Utah (20%) was slightly lower than the national average, substance abuse and drug overdoses are nevertheless pervasive problems throughout the state.
- According to data collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an average of 2.8% of Utah residents over the age of 12 had a past-year illicit drug disorder between the years 2017 and 2019, similar to the national average of 2.9%.
- The same study found that an average of 3.8% had an alcohol use disorder in that period, lower than the national average of 5.3%.
Illicit Drug Use
According to SAMSHA, in 2017-2019:
- The average prevalence of past-year marijuana use among adults was 11.3%.
- The average prevalence of past-year heroin use among adults was 0.24%.
- The average prevalence of past-year prescription pain-reliever use among adults was 3.6%.
- The average prevalence of past-month use of marijuana amongst youth aged 12-17 was 3.6%.
- The average prevalence of past-month binge drinking amongst youth aged 18-25 was 21.8%.
Drug Overdose Death Rates
The United States is currently in the grip of a crisis of drug overdoses. Opioid substances (drugs derived or manufactured from the seeds of the opium poppy) are the driving factor behind these deaths, causing many commentators to refer to the public health crisis as the opioid epidemic.
The opioid epidemic began in the late 1990s when pharmaceutical companies persuaded health providers that synthetic opioid prescription painkillers had a low risk of addiction compared to natural opioids like heroin. Within years, millions of people in the US state were addicted to opioids. In recent years, the production of fentanyl, a highly potent opioid that is 50 times the strength of heroin, has perpetuated the crisis.
Like every state, Utah has been deeply affected by the crisis. Although in 2020, the opioid dispensing rate had fallen to 48.4 per 100 people (down from 87 in 2006), the devasting effects of the epidemic continue.
- According to the Utah Department of Health, an average of 475 people each year die from unintentional drug overdose.
- 323 people a year die from a prescription opioid drug overdose, 156 from a heroin overdose, and 88 from a synthetic opioid overdose such as fentanyl.
- Drug overdose is the leading cause of injury deaths in Utah and the top 10 leading causes of all deaths. More people die from a drug overdose in the state than from firearms, falls, and motor vehicle accidents.
- In 2020, the Utah drug overdose death rate was 20.5 per 100,000.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Federal and state institutions have responded to the nationwide drug overdose crisis with numerous strategies, initiatives, and billions of dollars of funding for the prevention and treatment of substance abuse. In recent years, the number of people accessing treatment has increased significantly and extensive research has uncovered several medical and psycho-therapeutic treatment methods.
- A single-day count in March 2019 found that 29,186 people in Salt Lake City and the rest of the state were enrolled in substance use treatment, over double the number enrolled in 2015.
- 2719 of these were receiving methadone in opioid treatment programs, and 5,725 were receiving buprenorphine. Methadone and buprenorphine are FDA-approved drugs that can help reduce opioid cravings and prevent opioid overdose, with potentially life-saving consequences.
Mental Illness in Adults and Young People
Over half of people with a substance use disorder also live with a co-occurring mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression. If untreated, these conditions can drive substance abuse. People may turn to substances as a coping mechanism for psychological distress, putting them at risk of developing drug or alcohol dependence and addiction.
Likewise, substance misuse may cause or exacerbate mental health concerns. Substances like alcohol, heroin, or cocaine all affect our brain chemistry. Our brains function on a delicate balance of different chemicals that help cells communicate and regulate essential functions, such as memory, emotion, and movement. Disrupting this balance can have dramatic and severe consequences, potentially causing symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychosis, and other mental health disorders.
Because of the link between substance abuse and mental illness, supporting the mental health of the nation play an important role in preventing drug abuse. Unfortunately, many Utah residents live with mental health concerns. Data suggests that:
- Between 2017 and 2019, an average of 7.3% of adults in Utah had had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year.
- 7.5% of adults in Utah reported having a serious mental illness and 49.8% had experienced a mental health illness of some kind.
- 17.1% of adolescents aged 12-17 years (predominately high school students) had experienced a major depressive episode.
Causes of Drug Abuse and Mental Illness
Understanding the causes of drug abuse and mental illness is key to effective prevention and treatment. Some of the main environmental factors include:
- poor prescribing practices
- the covid-19 pandemic, which has left many individuals isolated and unable to access support
- poverty and inequality
- lack of effective social support and interventions at a federal or state level, including for children who have experienced early life adversity
Luxury Drug and Alcohol Treatment at Cirque Lodge
Cirque Lodge is a luxury rehab center in the heart of the Rocky Mountains of Utah. We offer one of the nation’s most exclusive, advanced, and reputable recovery programs.
Our mountain lodge and state-of-the-art studio provide a serene, modern setting that draws on the healing powers of nature. We deliver enriching recovery experiences where you can reconnect with your inner self, develop new passions, and rediscover your love of life.
Our individualized treatment programs combine clinical treatments with experiential therapies, addressing the needs of the entire person. The 12-step philosophy of addiction recovery underpins every treatment plan. We have all the expertise and resources you need to break free from addiction and enjoy a lifetime of sobriety.
Many of our staff are in recovery themselves, so we understand what it’s like to live with drug or alcohol addiction. We treat every client with compassion, respect, and without judgment. When you enter Cirque Lodge, you become part of our community – a community that stays with you long after you leave the center. Our unrivaled alumni program of events, retreats, and reunions offers ongoing support and inspiration to guide you through the years ahead.
Contact Us Today
If you or a loved one is living with addiction, contact us today. Our team of compassionate experts is on hand to answer any questions you may have and explore the next steps. You’re ready to make the change.