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Study: Binge drinking lowest in South, highest in Midwest

WASHINGTON (BP)–Binge drinking is highest in states in the Midwest and Great Plains and is the lowest in the Deep South, Utah and Oregon, according to a new government study.

The study, released by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in mid-February, builds on data released last September that found, on average, more than one in five Americans had gone on a drinking binge during the previous 30 days and about 6 percent had smoked marijuana.

The state-by-state breakdown found that binge drinking — defined as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey — was most rampant in North Dakota, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota and Montana. The percentages of residents engaging in binge drinking ranged from 31.4 percent in North Dakota to 15.9 percent in Utah with a national average of 22.6 percent.

The highest rate of alcohol dependence or abuse was found in North Dakota with 10.8 percent and the lowest was in Tennessee with 6.0 percent. The District of Columbia had the highest rate of illicit drug dependence or abuse at 4.0 percent, and the lowest was found in Kansas and Iowa with rates of 2.5 percent, according to a SAMHSA news release.

Alaska tops the list of most frequent users of illicit drugs. Twelve percent of persons 12 and older in Alaska admitted to using an illicit drug within the past month. Utah ranked lowest on the list with 6.3 percent of its residents acknowledging that form of substance abuse. Other states with high levels of use include Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Nevada and New Mexico.

Marijuana is the nation’s most frequently used illicit drug, the study said, with 10.8 percent of Americans using the drug during the past year.

“State-by-state data is a powerful tool for policymakers at the federal, state and local levels to identify needs and target prevention and treatment resources,” SAMHSA administrator Charles Curie said in the release. “While we as a nation are making overall progress in reducing illicit drug use among youth, it is clear from the findings that illicit drug, alcohol and tobacco use vary substantially among states and regions.”

The study said most of the states where alcohol use was the least were in the South, but Southerners were the biggest users of tobacco. Kentucky, where tobacco was a cash crop for decades, topped the list of tobacco use during the previous month with 39.8 percent of the population using the substance. Utah, at 19.7 percent, reported the lowest rate in the nation.

Utah’s status as a state with lower rates of use in various areas could be attributed to a combination of comprehensive prevention programs, aggressive rehabilitation and a non-drinking tone set by the Mormon church, the director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health in Utah said in USA Today.

SAMHSA is a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For more information on the substance abuse study, visit www.samhsa.gov.

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