Drug abuse has plagued the American continent since the 1800s. All narcotics, such as morphine, heroin and cocaine were once hailed for their curative properties. By the mid-20th century, however, illicit drug use was all but eradicated. This was accomplished through focused suppression of the industry. This changed again in the 1960s when many new and exotic drugs, such as hallucinogens, amphetamines, and marijuana, became more readily available. The proliferation of these substances birthed many government agencies, commissioned to counter the scourge of illegal drugs.
In 1992 the Congress of the United States of America created the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It strives to advance the behavioral health of the nation, to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.
SAMHSA collects and analyzes five types of data:
- Population Data. National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is a primary source of information on alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use and mental disorders.
- Client Level Data. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) contains the demographics of admissions to treatment facilities in the U.S.
- Substance Abuse Facilities Data. National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS) is an annual census of all substance abuse treatment facilities in the U.S.
- Mental Health Facilities Data. National Mental Health Services Survey (N-MHSS) is an annual survey of all known mental health treatment facilities in the U.S.
- Emergency Department Data. Hospital emergency departments record visits for drug use, misuse, and abuse.
The analysis of this data is classified by:
- alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
- health care and health systems integration
- health information technology
- HIV, AIDS and viral hepatitis
- homelessness and housing
- laws, regulations, and guidelines
- criminal and juvenile justice
- prevention of substance abuse and mental illness
- school and campus health
- suicide prevention
According to SAMHSA’s data and analysis for 2014, 18% of Americans aged 18 and older experienced some form of mental illness. Mental disorders involve changes in thinking, mood and behavior. These disorders can affect how people relate to others and make choices. Mental disorders take many different forms. Some are rooted in deep levels of anxiety, extreme changes in mood, or reduced ability to focus or behave appropriately. Others involve unwanted, intrusive thoughts and some may result in auditory and visual hallucinations or false beliefs about basic aspects of reality.
Approximately 19% of service members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, and 20% experienced a traumatic brain injury during deployment.
At the same time, 4% of Americans aged 18 and older reported in 2014 that they had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year. About one-third (33%) of American adults that had a serious depressive episode in the past 12 months did not seek professional help.
According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 67% of Americans aged 12 or older drank alcohol in the past 12 months, and 4% of these people drove under the influence of alcohol. About 10% used illicit drugs in the past month and 25% used tobacco products.