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Over 49 million Americans have substance use disorders; support available in El Paso

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- In recently released government documents, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans over age 12 are facing a substance use disorder nationwide. These figures were gathered from a self-reported survey released earlier this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Substance use is a national concern, and this survey is produced by federal experts each year to gather better insight into how alcohol, drugs, tobacco and other substances affect the general population. Substance use has negative impacts on health, and can turn deadly.

Extreme forms of substance use are known as addiction, or Substance Use Disorder. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans last year were considered "severe" drug users, according to the data.

It's important to note the clinical definition of a Substance Use Disorder, or SUD. SUDs involve impairment caused by consistent use of alcohol and/or drugs. These can lead to health issues, problems at work, school, or home. They come in three main categories -- mild, moderate and severe SUDs. 

In 2021, the University of Texas Austin's Addiction Research Institute, found that meth, heroin , cocaine, marijuana and fentanyl were noteworthy substances used across the state. 

According to the research group KFF, in 2021, over 2,700 opioid overdose deaths took place in Texas. Nationwide, more than 75% of all overdose deaths were from opioid use.

While the study outlining these findings are national, the Borderland is facing many challenges as well.

Mental illness is often tied in to drug or substance use, according to the Department of Health and Human Servcices. Their figures show that about 1 in 12 people experienced both mental illness and an SUD. Alongside those SUDs, mental challenges like depression, addiction and --- can be present.

The HHS Secretary, Xavier Becerra, said of the new data that it will inform general knowledge and policy about drug and substance use. He said that the actions stemming from the report will drive "our shared commitment across government, healthcare, industry and community to offer resources and services to those in need.”

These figures are part of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. It covers the entire country, and -- it's important to note -- is made up of self-reported instances of tobacco, drug and alcohol use. The respondents to the NSDUH can also self-identify their mental health conditions, suicidal thoughts and any treatments.

The NSDUH includes data on Americans over the age of 12. According to HHS statements, "The NSDUH estimates allow researchers, clinicians, policymakers, and the general public to better understand and improve the nation’s behavioral health."

These surveys are conducted each year, and in 2022, included American households, homeless shelters, migrant households, college dorms, military personnel, jails, nursing homes, long-term hospitals and mental health institutions.


There are a number of options for mental health support that are available across the Borderland:

  • 988: The National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline - Anyone can contact the Crisis line through phone, text or message any time, for any mental distress.
  • EHN Crisis Hotline: (915-779-1800) - Staffed by locals, and a constant resource in El Paso, Emergence Health Network's hotline has specialists ready to hear you out.
  • NAMI El Paso- As part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are some options listed on their website for support and connection. NAMI is focused on providing support to anyone with any sort of mental illness.

Avery Martinez covers mental health in the Borderland as part of ABC-7’s Be Mindful initiative. He is also a Report for America corps member. RFA places talented, emerging journalists in newsrooms like ABC-7’s to report on under-covered issues and communities. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up.

Article Topic Follows: Be Mindful

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Avery Martinez


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