Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Monday, July 24, 2006

Substance Abuse in Rural America - Carsey Institute Report

Substance Abuse in Rural America

Introduction - this is the introdution to a research report about substance abuse in rural communities, from our friends at the Carsey Instititute
(see full report at the link under the title of this post)

The media warn us about a “meth crisis” in rural America, and discouraging headlines are commonplace. As journalist and author Alan Elsner (2005) reports, the relative isolation and quiet lifestyle in rural areas and small towns provide ideal opportunities for drug activity and methamphetamine production. His interview with a member of Franklin County Sheriff’s Department in Missouri — a state particularly hard hit by an influx of meth makers, dealers, and users — highlights some of the unique characteristics of the meth trade.

It’s the first drug in the history of the United States we can make, distribute, sell, and take, all here in the Midwest. You can’t grow a coca plantation or an opium plantation here to get your heroin or cocaine, and marijuana takes four or five months to grow a good plant. With methamphetamine, you can go out and for a couple hundred dollars, you can make your drugs that day.

Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal expressed his frustrations at a statewide conference on fighting the meth problem: "It doesn’t matter where we go in the state, methamphetamine is there. The whole issue is eating us alive."

Despite dramatic and frightening statements like these, there has been only limited scholarly research about meth or other substance abuse among rural people nationwide. In this report, you will see that rural America does face some unique challenges with meth; yet only a very small proportion of rural Americans abuse methamphetamines. More troubling crises involve the high prevalence of the abuse of alcohol, especially among rural teenagers, and the limited number of treatment options for rural Americans who need help.

This report draws on existing knowledge and uses data from a nationally representative data source to understand patterns of substance abuse in rural America. In the background section, it defines terms, reviews previous studies, and presents findings about recent trends in substance abuse in rural and urban areas. Next, it looks at patterns of substance abuse for people of different ages, sexes, and races. It also considers patterns of substance abuse for people with different levels of education, income, and employment status. Findings about rural family and community contexts are also presented. The report concludes with a summary of the major findings and a discussion of policy implications. First, the report begins with a story of a place faced with tremendous substance abuse problems that is finding ways to overcome theses challenges.

see full report at

post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


  • At 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you for posting this. There is such a lack of education regarding the epidemic of meth in this country.

    There is so much we have yet to learn about the effects that meth have on people. Medical and law enforcement professionals that deal with people on meth are even beginning to find that they are having health issues because of it. Hepatitis is also on the rise because of users sharing needles. This has to stop.

    There is such a misconception on treating people with meth. This is a lifetime battle for these people and throwing them in jail isn't the answer.

    Not only do we need to strengthen our efforts on prevention but we also need to strengthen our efforts in finding ways to stop the addiction.

  • At 7:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i agree, both that rural people (and i am one) know too little about meth and about addiction until they or their family experience it

    i also agree that the Republican (or, if you prefer, conservative, reactionary, neo-conservative) mindset that someone who gets hooked on meth automatically belongs in prison.

  • At 6:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So if you could clarify what you meant by your comment that you agree that people that become hooked on meth should be in prison. Do you mean that they should be in prison?

  • At 9:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i apologize, my previous post was very unclear.

    i agree that rural people (and i consider myself a rural person) do not know enough about addiction nor do we know enough about meth and addiction to meth.

    i believe that the mindset in our society that every drug addict, and certainly every meth addict, should be in prison is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

    i believe that republicans (or neo-conservatives or reactionaries...) are causing this "PUT THEM ALL IN PRISON" mindset by all of them competing to be the most ignorant, racist, hateful, vindictive, unpatriotic, anti-democracy jackass on the block.

    and of course, democrats just join them in doing the same thing, which, in some ways makes them worse (and definitely makes them stupider).

  • At 10:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you for clarifying your comment. I assumed that is what you meant, but I wasn't sure.

    I really don't understand why Conservatives would rather "sweep the problems under the rug" all the time instead of finding actual SOLUTIONS for the meth epidemic (of course one could say that is their answer for every single issue brought their way).

    It just really disgusts me because rural folks have so many obsticles facing us on a daily basis and we really don't need to have this issue to fight with.

    There is never enough money for law enforcement, there aren't nearly enough treatment facilities and even though the jails are already full we are not helping anyone by just throwing them in jail.

    I'm from ND and Rugby which is a small community of about 2000 people are replacing their very small jail with a multi million dollar treatment facility so there is hope out there.

    Now if we can just figure out how to stop people from even trying this terrible drug.

  • At 9:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    as long as people in small towns have less and less hope every year there will be more and more meth use every year

  • At 12:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    so let's create some hope out there
    let's have a decent wage in rural America - and stop spending economic development money on low wage jobs
    let's get a decent farm bill that supports family farmers and ranchers, not the big corporate farms
    let's invest some time, effort and money in developing our communities, not just our economy

  • At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i'd vote for the plan mentioned in the previous post

  • At 1:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am new to this drug world. A very dear and wonderful young relative was just sent to prison for drug problems--his first criminal arrest, no violence, no weapons--15 years. He spent one year in jail prior and was a model prisoner who begged for treatment for meth--I begged for treatment, but against a law enforcement team that preferred the publicity from a big arrest and long prison time. His court appointed attorney never even heard his side of the story. I am just now learning since if you are in jail you cannot discuss the case with your family. All phone calls, letters, and visits are monitored. I have always been on the side of the law, but I am so disappointed in what I have learned. There are long term treatments in which a person can go and if they do not conform still face their charges. These are cheaper than prison. A person sent to prison for a non-violent crime has a great chance of returning later for a violent crime. The change is going to have to come from the general public. We just don't see it though--until it becomes our loved ones.


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