Young Adults Need Alcohol, Illicit Drug Use Treatment

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Nearly 7 million Americans aged 18 to 25 were classified as needing treatment in the past year for alcohol or illicit drug use according to a new national study. The study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also shows that 93 percent of these young adults did not receive the help they needed at a specialty treatment facility. These levels have remained relatively stable since 2002.

The study also showed that the vast majority (96 percent) of young adults needing, but not receiving specialized treatment for these substance use problems did not perceive their need for help. Even among the 4 percent of young adults who thought they needed specialized help in the past year, but who had not received it – less than one third (32.2 percent) made any attempt to get treatment.


“Substance use disorders are preventable and treatable yet we continue as a Nation to allow the lives of 1 in 5 young people and their families be torn apart by substance abuse,” said SAMHSA Acting Administrator, Eric Broderick, D.D.S., M.P.H. “As a nation we must redouble our efforts to prevent substance abuse in the first place and ensure treatment is available to those in need.”

Among young adults, 17.2 percent needed treatment for alcohol disorders in the past year, 8.4 percent for illicit drug disorders and 4.4 percent for a combination of alcohol and illicit drug disorders.

The report reveals substantial differences among young adults receiving specialized treatment in terms of their medical health insurance coverage. Young adults covered by Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) were more than three times as likely to receive treatment for alcohol or illicit drug use in a specialty facility as were their counterparts with private insurance (13.2 percent versus 4.0 percent). Young adults without insurance or with other forms of insurance also received treatment at higher levels than those with private insurance (10.6 percent and 8.7 percent respectively).

Young Adult’s Need for and Receipt of Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use Treatment: 2007 is based on 2007 data drawn from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, involving responses from 22,187 persons aged 18 to 25.