Opioid Admissions At Treatment Centers Rise While Alcohol Admissions Drop

By John Lavitt 12/10/15

Non-heroin admissions show the extent of the prescription drug epidemic.


A new SAMHSA report based on the 2013 Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) shows notable changes in substance abuse treatment admissions over the past decade. Although alcohol-related admissions have dropped, opioid-related admissions to treatment centers, both from heroin and prescription painkillers, have increased. The most dramatic rise has been in non-heroin opioid use with a tripling in admissions from 3% to 9%, revealing the extent of the prescription painkiller epidemic.

Compiled through the individual data collection systems of state substance abuse agencies (SSAs), TEDS provides a single source for the final results. Although the data shows a drop in overall admissions to publicly-funded treatment programs, this drop may be offset by a significant increase in private programs during the same period. Overall, the number of admissions reported among Americans aged 12 and older for publicly-funded substance use treatment declined from 1,865,145 admissions in 2003 to 1,683,451 admissions in 2013.

Although clients admitted primarily with alcohol use disorders still remain the largest proportion of admissions, it has dropped from 42% in 2003 to 38% in 2013. During this same period, the proportion of admissions primarily associated with heroin use rose from 15% to 19%. Although marijuana-related admissions have remained fairly steady from 16% to 17%, methamphetamine-related admissions increased from 6% to 9% between 2003-2013. The proportion of admissions associated with cocaine use, including crack cocaine, actually declined from 14% in 2003 to 6% in 2013.

The federal government is making a concerted effort to address opioid abuse across the country. It’s important to note, however, that 55% of all treatment admissions in 2013 reported using more than one substance of abuse. SAMHSA Acting Administrator Kana Enomoto does not believe the specific addiction types recorded are as important as the very act of people seeking treatment.

“Whether people are struggling with alcohol, prescription drugs, or illicit substances, seeking help is a critical step toward achieving recovery,” Enomoto said. “Time and again, research has demonstrated that treatment helps people with substance use disorders to regain their lives. As with other life-threatening conditions, this step can be the difference between life and death. We need to encourage people to seek help. Treatment works. People recover."

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.