The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration last week released details on the scope of substance abuse and mental illness in the United States. The report notes that in 2013, 9.4 percent or 24.6 million persons over the age of 12 were illicit drug users, with marijuana use leading the tally with 19.8 current users. The agency estimated 4.5 million prescription pain drug abusers, 1.5 million cocaine and 595,000 methamphetamine users. A larger number of Americans – nearly 1 in 5 – had a mental illness in 2013 and 34.6 million sought mental health treatment and counseling. The tally of Americans suffering a serious mental illness, defined as interfering with major life activities, is estimated at 10 million (or 4.2 percent of the adult population).
Congressional action on drug abuse is complicated by several states legalizing recreational use of marijuana. Several other legislative efforts are pending to ramp up funding for programs to combat the abuse of prescription painkillers. HealthBeat’s Kerry Young reported in July that funding to aid state prescription monitoring programs could be included in this month’s temporary stopgap spending bill. Recent major mental health initiatives normally have been paired with other measures. The 2010 Affordable Care Act included mental health components and the 2008 financial services industry emergency bailout became law through a bill requiring insurance coverage parity for mental health services.
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