Mental Health Accessability Exacerbating Rural Meth Problem
> 4/25/2007 1:13:14 PM

Researchers in Nebraska have released a comprehensive new study that examines methamphetamine addiction from the perspective of urban addicts and rural addicts. Methamphetamine is a major problem across the Midwest, having spread into the area from the west. Coupled with the increase in cases of addiction is a relative lack of proper support services, in the form of mental health treatment centers and therapists trained to address the powerful addiction of methamphetamine.

Discussing the study's results, the AP reported:

The study showed that rural addicts began using meth at a younger age, were more likely to use the drug intravenously and were more likely to also be dependent on alcohol or cigarettes. They also exhibited more signs of psychosis than urban addicts 45% vs. 29%, according to the study.

[Lead researcher Dr. Kathleen] Grant said the findings, released in the March/April edition of The American Journal on Addiction, suggest rural addicts are at higher risk for psychiatric and medical problems such as infectious diseases and lung and liver cancer.

That's troubling, she said, because addicts living in rural areas have less access to care because of distance and transportation issues than those living in cities.

While meth has become a growing problem for many states, Nebraska has been one of those harder hit. The Drug Enforcement Association calls methamphetamine the single greatest concern for drug officers in the state of Nebraska. That fact is made all the scarier by the knowledge that often the treatments and services most desperately needed are those that are unavailable.

As this state funded study shows, individuals in rural areas are effected to a greater extent than are those in more densely populated areas who have access to a wider range of services. While efforts at prevention through disrupting both supply and demand must continue, we cannot forget that many are already in the clutches of the powerful methamphetamine addiction. As there is so much variation nationwide, states are best served by assessing their own needs when it comes to dealing with meth and deciding the best course of action. Using public funds to draw more mental health professionals is one strategy, but can often be a costly one. Technology also offers new options for alleviating situations created by lack of support. Addiction treatment and counseling services over the web, combined with chat groups and message boards, can provide options for those who don't want to leave their homes or commute unnecessarily for treatment. Clearly, there is a need for new ideas and new options. We need to be thinking creatively about how to deal with, what can often seem a terrifyingly large proposition.

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