In 2021, only 6% of people in the U.S. struggling with substance use disorder received any treatment, according to this year’s SAMHSA report. That is just one of a great many statistics gathered in this report. Its findings should concern us all.
Every year since 1971, an annual report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has trained a statistical spotlight on mental illness and substance use disorder (SUD) in the United States.
It’s safe to say that no one was expecting 2021 to be a good year for these conditions. As with 2020, the pandemic created unprecedented barriers to receiving care for millions of Americans. But few would lay the blame on the pandemic alone. In 2021, even as COVID indices began to improve around the country, SUD and mental health challenges continued to grow. Last year, fully 16.5% of the country’s population—more than 46 million people—suffered from SUD of some kind. Young adults (18 to 25 years old) continued to be the category of highest risk.
The report’s mental health statistics are also sobering. Among many other findings is the staggering fact that one in five adolescents reported a “major depressive episode” in the past year. Of those, 75% had symptoms consistent with “severe impairment,” indicating a major practical or emotional disruption of their lives. And again, the treatment gap looms large: more than half of the affected youth did not receive any professional help for their condition.
To say the least, it’s a worrying portrait of the country. For anyone concerned about the state of mental health and SUD, this report provides a vital, factual baseline.