More Americans Getting Substance Abuse Treatment, But Heroin OD Deaths Continue to Rise

About 1.25 million Americans are in some type of substance use treatment, according to a recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Behavioral Health Barometer: United States 2014 is a brief report that uses federal data to provide a glimpse at the current state of mental health and substance abuse in adults and youth in the US.

Among the one-and-a-quarter million American adults enrolled in treatment programs, about 40% are there for drug use, 17.4% for alcohol use, and 43% for both. The number of adults in treatment has been slowly climbing since 2010, when the total adults in treatment “in a single day” (the data measurement used) was about 1.18 million.

Medication Treatment for Opioid Addiction Continues to Grow

The data show that 330,000 people were on methadone as part of an opioid treatment program in 2013 (up from 283,000 in 2009). And the number of people taking buprenorphine for opioid abuse almost doubled between 2009 and 2013. Close to 50,000 people used buprenorphine to treat opioid addiction in 2013.

Buprenorphine and methadone are just two of a number of medications used to treat opioid addiction. Other options include Suboxone (the combination of buprenorphine and naloxone) and naltrexone (under the brand names ReVia and Vivitrol).

The treatment numbers for illicit drugs are a little different. (Illicit drugs in this report are defined as marijuana/hashish, crack/cocaine, inhalants, hallucinogens, heroin, or misuse of other prescription drugs).

Around 80% of the 6.9 million Americans over age 12 who reported past-year illicit drug use didn’t receive treatment or think they needed it. Only 13.4% received any type of treatment for their illicit drug use. The greatest numbers of those in treatment were over age 26. They received treatment at almost twice the rate of those ages 12 to 25.

Heroin OD Deaths Up 39% 

In other substance abuse news, in early January the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their 2013 annual report on mortality.

The good news is that death rates from overdoses of prescription opioids such as oxycodone have held steady.

The bad news is that deaths from heroin—often considered a “next step” for addicts who can no longer afford to abuse pain pills—has continued to rise at an alarming rate. Heroin overdoses rose 39% from 2012 to 2013. (Data from 2014 is not yet publicly available.)

In a related news release, the CDC points out that the recent increase in law enforcement’s use of naloxone (Narcan), which can reverse the effects of a drug overdose, should help reduce deaths from ODs. But they stress that early intervention in prescription drug abuse is key in combatting deaths from heroin and prescription opiates.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at



More Americans Getting Substance Abuse Treatment, But Heroin OD Deaths Continue to Rise

Amy Harding

Amy Harding is an editor at Psych Central Pro. She has worked as a writer and editor in the healthcare field for more than 10 years, in roles as diverse as writing marketing copy for a large hospital system to serving as executive editor at a psychiatry CME publisher. Her career has focused primarily on creating accessible, timely, and reader-friendly professional education for those in the mental and behavioral health fields. You can reach her at [email protected]


APA Reference
Harding, A. (2015). More Americans Getting Substance Abuse Treatment, But Heroin OD Deaths Continue to Rise. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 15, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jan 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Jan 2015
Published on All rights reserved.