SAMHSA’s 2015 Behavioral Health Barometer: Pennsylvania Offers Look at Substance Use, Mental Health Treatment

Earlier this year The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published the third edition of their Behavioral Health Barometer: Pennsylvaniapart of series of reports at both the national and the state level that provides a “snapshot of behavioral health.”  The Barometer pulls data on youth and adult behavioral health markers from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the Monitoring the Future survey, and services used by Medicare enrollees. This free report is a great source of data for needs assessments and grant proposals, be sure to download the national and state (of your choice) report at the SAMHSA website.

Below are data from the report on aspects of youth and adolescent behavioral health and substance use. Overall, the state percentages are comparable to national percentages, with higher proportions in reported cigarette use and binge drinking.

For Pennsylvania in 2013/2013-14:

  • approximately 84,000 adolescents (12 to 17 years old), just under 9 percent of all adolescents, used illegal drugs during the month prior.
  • 6.6 percent of adolescents used cigarettes within the last month – this is higher than the national data point  of 5.2 percent.
  • 16.5 percent of adolescents binged on alcohol within the last month – again, higher than the national percentage of 14 percent.
  • 198,088 youth (under 18 years of age) received services from the public mental health system, with 63.5 percent reporting improvement post-treatment, lower than the national data point of 69.5 percent.




Report Citation:  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Behavioral Health Barometer: Pennsylvania, 2015. HHS Publication No. SMA–16–Baro–2015–PA. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2015.


Study Finds Overseas Tobacco Advertising Reaches Very Young Children

Tobacco marketing reaches children as young as 5 years old influencing their attitudes about smoking and smokers, according to a study of children in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia recently published in the journal Child: Care, Health & Development. The research study, led by Dr. Dina Borzekowski, research professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health at the University of Maryland adds to her body of work on the impact of media on children’s health.

The research team assessed the children’s level of familiarity with tobacco branding, their intention to smoke in the future, and their overall exposure to media.  Among 5-and-6-year-old children in the six counties, nearly 68 percent were able to identify one tobacco logo and more than 25 percent could identify two or more. Higher levels of media exposure were not necessarily associated with better knowledge of tobacco brands. However, in three of the sample countries the presence of an adult in the home was also not a significant factor in brand knowledge, suggesting that advertising plays a role in the exposure of very young children to tobacco brands and smoking behavior.

Although tobacco companies face weaker regulations overseas, they spent $9.6 billion on advertising in the United States in 2012.  A U.S. Surgeon General’s report suggests that these companies continue to target marketing to American adolescents, portraying smoking or smokeless tobacco use as a desirable behavior. Considering the approximately 3.5 middle and high school students who used tobacco in 2012, it’s working.

Extensive information about tobacco marketing and promotion is available at the Stanford Research Into the Impact of Advertising (SRITA) webpage.



Study Citation: Pires, P. P., Ribas, R. C.,  Borzekowski, D. L. G. (2015).  Attitudes and intentions to smoke: a study of young Brazilian children. Child: Care, Health and Development.1365-2214


A Breakdown of Drug and Alcohol Usage in America

In 2013, 56% of adults in America classified themselves as "current drinkers", 24.6% reported that they were "binge drinkers".
In 2013, 56% of adults in America classified themselves as “current drinkers”, 24.6% reported that they were “binge drinkers”.

Alcohol consumption statistics have received much attention of late thanks to a Washington Post Wonkblog post citing material from the book Paying the Tab by Philip J. Cook and data from The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).  Those interested in alcohol consumption trends by adolescents and adults might also want to peruse the findings from the  National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual source of estimates on drug and alcohol use (although some categories are defined differently than those used by the NIAAA) and mental health in the United States.

According to a brief summarizing 2013 NSDUH data from the Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), last year more than half of Americans 12-years-and-over (52.2 percent) reported currently using alcohol, with approximately 23 percent classified as binge drinkers (defined as 5 or more drinks in one occasion).  Just over 6 percent self-reported as heavy drinkers – 16.2 million adults and 293,000 12-to-17 year-olds.  However, the use of alcohol within the past month and binge drinking both decreased among the 12-to-17-year-old group compared to 2012 data, from 12.9 percent to 11.6 percent and 7.2 percent to 6.2 percent, respectively.

Regarding drug use, 9.4 percent of adults used illicit drugs in 2013 with marijuana (7.6 percent), non-medical use of prescription drugs (1.7 percent)  and cocaine (0.6 percent) as the top three drugs currently used. Among adolescents, 8.8 percent reported currently using drugs. Again, marijuana (7.1 percent) and non-medical use of prescriptions (2.2 percent) were the most popular currently used illicit substances,  followed by hallucinogens (0.6) and inhalants (0.5).

Some of the reasons for not receiving drug and/or alcohol treatment by those who attempted to secure it (based on 2010-2013 data) include

  • lack of health care coverage or inability to afford the cost – 37.3 percent,
  • not ready to stop usage – 24.5 percent,
  • unsure of where to find treatment – 9 percent, and
  • health coverage that did not include rehabilitation – 8.2 percent.

The brief Substance Use and Mental Health Estimates from the 2013 National Survey in Drug Use and Health: Overview of Findings also contains data on the prevalence of mental and behavioral health issues among both adults and adolescents, including co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.



Citation: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (September 4, 2014). The NSDUH Report: Substance Use and Mental Health Estimates from the
2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Overview of Findings. Rockville, MD.

Photo Credit: M. Puzzanchera (Own Work) (CC By-NC-ND 3.0)

The Relationship between Age of First Drug Use and Future Treatment Needs

Early alcohol and drug prevention efforts and enhanced treatment options for youth may play a key role in reducing the likelihood of future substance abuse according to a new brief from SAMHSA. The report, Age of Substance Use Initiation among Treatment Admissions Aged 18-to-30, presents data that suggest the age of first drug use is associated with need for treatment later in life; specifically, persons reporting an earlier age of initiation were 1) more likely to be admitted to treatment and 2) abuse multiple substances. In 2011, nearly three-quarters of the 18-to-30 year olds admitted for substance abuse treatment began using when under the age of 17, 34 percent between the ages of 15-17, 30 percent between the ages of 12-14, and 10 percent at age 11 and under. Of those who began using substances at age 11 or younger, 78 percent reported abusing at least two substances at the time of intake.

Other interesting takeaways from the report:

  • 63 percent of treatment admissions of people 18 to 30 years old were male, and males were more likely than females to start using substances at earlier ages
  • Among those reporting first drug use at 11 or younger, marijuana and alcohol were the most commonly used substances
  • Among those reporting first drug use at age 25 or over, heroin and prescription pain medication were the most commonly used substances
  • Nearly 39 percent of the persons admitted to treatment whom first used a substance at age 11 or younger reported a co-occurring mental disorder – the highest rate of any of the age groups

As the age of  first use of drugs or alcohol increases, the number of substances abused at time of admission to addiction treatment declines. The authors also  note that adolescents can grow into habitual abuse of alcohol and drugs within three years of initiation. These data indicate the need for continuous but targeted preventative interventions with elementary-to-middle-school-age students. For example, the risk factors for young children are usually related to the family, whereas adolescents may experience ongoing pressure from peers who use illegal substances, so strategies to address these factors while building up protective factors will also vary.

Information on drug prevention programs and resource guides for parents and teachers are available at the SAMHSA website.




Report Citation:  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (July 17, 2014).The TEDS Report: Age of Substance Use Initiation among Treatment Admissions Aged 18 to 30. Rockville, MD.