NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Dec. 16, 2021) – While attention remains focused on the ongoing opioid epidemic, the number of people seeking treatment for alcohol and psychostimulant use disorder is also on the rise in much of the region, according to the Gaudenzia Frontline Report, the first county-by-county look at substance use disorder trends in the areas that it serves.
Gaudenzia, Inc., the largest nonprofit treatment provider in Pennsylvania and Maryland with programs also in Delaware, launched the Frontline Report to provide a ground-level view of substance use disorder trends to better aid all those engaged in treatment efforts. The data comes from the more than 14,000 people admitted to Gaudenzia programs during the fiscal year that ended in June.
Among the key findings:
- Overall primary diagnoses of alcohol use disorder rose to 27% in the three states. Delaware and Maryland, however, showed alcohol-related diagnoses increase by 16 percentage points and 5 percentage points respectively.
- Overall stimulant use disorder diagnoses were stable at 26%, but in a troubling trend, three Pennsylvania counties posted double-digit increases. Schuylkill Co. rose 10 percentage points to 51% of primary diagnoses; Lancaster Co. was up 21 percentage points to 47% and Fulton Co. was up 16 percentage points to 31%. The gains were not relegated to rural counties. Bucks rose 7 percentage points to 17%.
- Opioid use was reported almost equally among men (40%) and women (38%).
- Stimulant use was more prevalent among women (26%) than men (19%).
- Alcohol use was more prevalent among men (29%) than women (24%).
- COVID-19 disrupted the traditional distribution of illegal drugs resulting in substances adulterated with dangerous synthetics or lethal mixes of various substances.
- The “fourth wave” of the opioid epidemic — polysubstance use, including the mixing of psychostimulants and fentanyl — is upon us and leading to acceleration in overdose deaths and new challenges in treatment.
“Unfortunately, there is no supply chain crisis when it comes to substances that infect our cities and towns every day,” said Dale Klatzker, CEO of Gaudenzia. “COVID-19 made a crisis far worse. Isolation, fear and economic dislocation continue to disrupt the lives of our families, friends and neighbors throughout the region.”
What is especially concerning is the re-emergence of polysubstance use involving cheaper, lab-synthesized substances such as methamphetamine and fentanyl. These substances typically have higher purity and are more addictive and confounding to treat. They also put
far greater stresses on the social services network tasked with helping people.
Klatzker said the Frontline Report is meant to help local and state officials, including law enforcement, social service agencies and elected representatives, along with media and others, better understand what is happening in their communities. The Frontline Report will be released annually.
“Everyone has a stake in this fight,” Klatzker said. “We must begin to treat substance use disorder as a health crisis the same way and with the same urgency that we treat cancer, heart disease, and COVID-19.
“This will require a holistic approach that addresses all facets of physical, mental and socio-economic health rather than remaining in our silos and hoping somebody else solves the problem.”
More information on Gaudenzia’s programs, which help the most disenfranchised clients in the communities they serve, can be found at www.gaudenzia.org. Those who are in need of treatment can call Gaudenzia’s 24/7 Treatment and Recovery Helpline at 833-976-HELP (4357).
ABOUT GAUDENZIA, INC.
Gaudenzia, Inc. is one of the largest nonprofit drug and alcohol treatment and recovery centers in the United States, with 51 facilities operating in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. The agency serves about 19,000 individuals annually and operates 117 and alcohol treatment programs for men and women. Since 1968, Gaudenzia has provided specialized services and programs to users of all demographics, including pregnant and parenting mothers, adolescents, people with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders, and more. Those seeking help can call Gaudenzia’s 24/7 Treatment and Recovery Helpline at 833-976-HELP (4357). For more information, visit www.Gaudenzia.org.