Rising Rates Prescription Drug Abuse

Rural Prescription Drug Abuse, rural america - old downtown street

Drug abuse of all types is dangerous not only to individuals but to the community as a whole.

If your loved one is suffering, taking action now could save his or her life. That “action” must be a commitment to moving towards recovery through detoxification and long-term therapy and support. Prescription drug abuse in particular requires some of the most intense treatment possible.

However, new research indicates that prescription drug abuse in rural areas of the United States is worsening, leaving those who need it the most with limited access to the treatment they need.

Recognizing the Rural Prescription Drug Abuse Situation

The United States Department of Agriculture published a report called “Rural America at a Glance” that looks at population numbers in rural areas of the United States. This includes areas of the Midwest, Great Plains, and Southern Coastal Plains. The report found that population numbers in these rural areas are dropping due to very poor mortality rates in the area. The rates are on the rise because of the increasing abuse of prescription medication.

The USDA has a dire warning. If the trend continues with high mortality resulting from prescription drug abuse, it will impact two key areas. First, the population decline in rural America will worsen. Second, the low population will cause an increase in the dependency ratio. This ratio is the difference between the number of people not working and those who are.

Here are a few statistics that showcase the dilemma from the USDA. There are 1,976 counties in the country’s rural areas listed in this report. Fewer than 50 million people live in these counties. From 2000 through 2016, these areas saw the population drop by 200,000 people for the first time in history.

The results of this drop in population impact everyone. Lowered population in an area leads to poor staffing of education and health jobs, transportation and utility companies, and hospitality industry sectors. Agriculture and mining see fewer people as well. This impacts everyone.

What Can Be Done?

The only way to help an individual through prescription drug abuse is through detox and comprehensive therapy. However, government officials, healthcare workers, and the prescription drug industry itself all must work together to develop creative solutions to prevent this type of drug abuse from occurring and to find solutions to reduce the impact on rural areas.

Doctors and Clinicians

The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that 80 percent of Americans had some contact with a healthcare professional during the previous year. This gives these professionals an opportunity to notice the potential abuse of prescription drugs. By taking measures to avoid prescribing these drugs, too, it is possible to reduce some of the impact. The use of prescription drug monitoring programs could be one way to reduce some of the availability of these drugs. More cautious prescribing of these drugs is an essential component of reducing access to them.


At the heart of the crisis is educating the patient. Individuals being prescribed these drugs must understand the risks with them. And, they must take those risks seriously in order to prevent addictive behavior. If you or someone you love is prescribed medications, follow these rules:

  • Take the medications only as directed by the doctor or by the label on the bottle.
  • Understand the interactions between new drugs and others being taken.
  • Never take anyone else’s prescription.
  • Do not stop taking your medication or change your use of it without speaking to your doctor first.
  • Always recognize changes in your body and your need for increasing amounts of pain medication. Report these to your doctor.

Helping the Individual Already Addicted

Rural America is not the only place where prescription drug abuse occurs. It happens throughout the United States, even in affluent areas. In all areas, recognizing the presence of abuse and taking action to treat it as soon as possible remains essential. If you or your loved one is struggling with prescription drug use, recognize the signs of addictive behavior:

  • Individuals are less social or willing to engage in activities they once enjoyed.
  • There is a significant level of stress over taking medication including when the next dose is available.
  • Poor memory and concentration occur.
  • Individuals become moody, suffer apathy and depression, or just seem to no longer care.
  • Chronic fatigue occurs.
  • Breathing slows.
  • Anxiety can develop.

When these signs occur, it indicates that the body is now demanding access to the drug. At this point, it is not possible for people to simply stop using. They need help. That help comes from addiction treatment programs.

The first step is usually detoxing. During this process, the goal is to strip the body’s physical demand for the drug. This is an intense process and one that can lead to significant complications if attempted without medical supervision. After detox, individuals will need continued care. They need to work through the recovery process with customized treatment programs that include therapy. During this process, whether in-patient or out-patient, the goal is to explore why the addiction happened and to learn to cope with the high risk of using again.

Prescription drugs are meant to help individuals in pain. Yet, today, especially in rural areas of the country, they are causing incredible pain. There is something that individuals can do. If your loved one is suffering – no matter the cause or who is at fault – it is time to take action. The sooner you take action to help a loved one by providing access to treatment, the more potential there is to save his or her life so that person does not become just another statistic.

Call The Ranch at Dove Tree now. Let’s talk about the options available to help your loved one find help in this incredible challenge. Contact The Ranch at Dove Tree with all of your questions and for 24-hour help.

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To learn more about our programs at Ranch at Dove Tree, please contact us today at 800.218.6727.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Use. Narcanon.
Drug-Abuse Deaths Contribute to Shrinking Rural Population. Agriculture.com.
Rural America At A Glance Rural America At A Glance United States Department of Agriculture 2017 Edition. U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Misuse of Prescription Drugs. National Institute on Drug Abuse.