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SAMHSA barometer shows reduction in teen smoking

January 26, 2016

In spite of significant snowfall that shut down the federal government, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) was able to release its Behavioral Health Barometer, a snapshot of addiction and mental health across America.

Issues are separated by demographic, by age, and by condition, covering the 2014 time period. Patrick High, epidemiologist with SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, tells Behavioral Healthcare that the administration noted some high points in the data.

The barometer tracked a trend reduction in the use of cigarettes by adolescents ages 12 to 17. 

“We’re continuing to reduce smoking among adolescents, from 2010 to 2014,” he says. 

The finding is important because it means that as the teens get older, they will be less likely to be smokers as adults, he says. Likewise the trend indicates prevention efforts are successful and should be continued.  Also among this age group, binge drinking, the use of pain relievers and the use of marijuana all are decreasing.

On the down side, adolescents don’t believe it’s very risky to smoke marijuana occasionally or to drink. 

And some trends remain steady. Among adults, the vast majority—nine out of 10—of those with an alcohol use disorder didn’t get treatment. Most didn’t perceive a need for it, as similarly documented by SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health. 

Other conditions highlighted in the barometer are serious thoughts of suicide, major depressive episodes and serious mental illness. Some 9.4 million adults in America seriously contemplated suicide in 2014. For the mental illness concerns, individuals with health insurance are more likely to be treated, and those in poverty are less likely to be treated even though the prevalence is higher in that population. 

Additional concerns

It’s also important to note that comorbid conditions are common. Some might be drinking heavily at the same time they are thinking about suicide, for example. 

“You’re going to find individuals who have these discrete characteristics, and also individuals who have comorbidities among multiple characteristics,” says High.

Behavioral health providers could use the barometer's data and graphics to share with their communities what’s going on in the nation and how the data might be relevant to age groups and populations that they target for treatment, says High. 

Previous SAMHSA report findings along with the Monitoring the Future survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse were the source of much of the data in the barometer.

For the Barometer, go to

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