abusers in rural areas have more medical and psychiatric
problems that may inhibit recovery than their urban
counterparts, according to a new study that compares
the two groups.
Experts say the
findings are unsettling because rural addicts have
limited access to treatment facilities and health
methamphetamine is worse in a lot of respects," said lead
researcher Kathleen Grant, who works at the Omaha VA Medical
Center and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Meth is an
addictive stimulant that can be prepared or "cooked"
in makeshift labs with over-the-counter cold tablets, common
household chemicals, and fertilizers.
According to the
2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 11.7
million Americans ages 12 and older said they've tried
methamphetamine, and 1.4 million said they'd used it
in the past month.
The study, funded
by the state of Nebraska, compared addicts from a
20,000-square-mile region who sought help at the nearest
treatment facility in Grand Island with those living
near and seeking help in the state's two largest
cities, Omaha and Lincoln. In all, 172 meth abusers
were interviewed between July 2004 and July 2005.
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% versus 29%,
according to the study.
Grant said the
findings, released in the March-April edition of
The American Journal on Addictions, 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.
continue to slide into addiction and are not able to
get the treatment they need," said Jennifer Sharpe Potter,
an opiate specialist at Harvard
University-affiliated McLean Hospital in Belmont,
She said meth
addiction is difficult to treat because there are few
treatment options available, and often the options that work
best are not available in rural areas. That points to
what she calls a long-standing problem that reaches
beyond drug treatment: the availability of health care
services in rural areas.
addict Barry Schmidt, 49, said he had to move from Fort
Dodge, Iowa, to Omaha in order to get the help he needed to
overcome a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse. He left
his wife and gave up seeing his father, who lives in a
nursing home there.
"I changed my
playground, playmates, and playthings," he said. It
was difficult but something he said was necessary to get
over his addictions.
Schmidt said he's
been in treatment 19 times over the past 30 years, the
first time when he was 19. His environment and a lack of
recovery support were obstacles to staying clean, he
But things have
been different in Omaha. Schmidt said he's graduated from
the VA hospital's treatment program and attends six to seven
recovery meetings a week. He credits those meetings
and the people he meets there with his success so far.
"I know that if I called any one of them at any given
time and said I'm thinking of using and I'm in a bad place,
they'd be there for me." (Timberly Ross, AP)