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Alabama Substance Use Statistics And Addiction Treatment Options

Addiction can be a lonely experience. Those who find themselves in the grip of a substance use disorder often feel isolated and anxious, as friends’ and family members’ fear and frustration grows. Fortunately, there is no need to fight this battle alone. A wide variety of effective treatment options are available throughout Alabama to help people find long-lasting recovery.

Addiction Rates In Alabama

The Alabama Department of Public Health estimates that 2.45 percent of the state’s population over the age of 17 has suffered from addiction to illicit drugs in the past year—more than 91,300 people.

Prescription painkillers also present a significant issue for the state of Alabama. More than 175,000 people engaged in substance use in the past year by using opioid pain relievers for non-medical purposes. An estimated 300,000 Alabama residents over the age of 17 suffer from addiction to painkillers or heroin.

Alabama Has The Highest Opioid Prescribing Rate In The Country

Physicians in Alabama prescribe more opioid medications than in any other state. In 2015, doctors wrote a staggering 5.8 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers—more prescriptions than there are people in the state. That number was down from 2013, when physicians wrote 6.8 million prescriptions.

The CDC’s Annual Surveillance Report of Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes found that in 2016, physicians in Alabama still prescribed more opioids than those in any other state. For every 100 Alabama residents, doctors wrote 121 prescriptions. This is a significant contrast to the national average of 66.5 prescriptions for every 100 residents.

The State of Substance Use In Alabama

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration conducts an annual survey to measure the prevalence of drug use throughout the country. According to the 2015-2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Alabama’s substance use rates are comparable to trends nationwide, with a few exceptions.

Alcohol Use In Alabama

In the month prior to the study, rates of binge alcohol consumption were lower for Alabama residents than the national average.

Age 12–17

  • United States – 5.33 percent
  • Southern Region – 4.83 percent
  • Alabama – 4.45 percent

Age 18 And Older

  • United States – 26.54 percent
  • Southern Region – 25.18 percent
  • Alabama – 22.93 percent

Marijuana Use In Alabama

Reported rates of marijuana use during the previous month were slightly below the national average.

Age 12–17

  • United States – 6.75 percent
  • Southern Region – 6.13 percent
  • Alabama – 5.2 percent

Age 18 And Older

  • United States – 8.79 percent
  • Southern Region – 7.14 percent
  • Alabama – 5.25 percent

Cocaine Use In Alabama

Researchers found that cocaine use in the prior year in Alabama was also slightly lower than the national and regional average.

Age 12–17

  • United States – .58 percent
  • Southern Region – .45 percent
  • Alabama – .33 percent

Age 18 And Older

  • United States – 1.97 percent
  • Southern Region – 1.72 percent
  • Alabama – 1.30 percent

Heroin And Opioid Use In Alabama

Trends in heroin use over the past year among Alabama adults align more closely with the national and regional averages. However, Alabama teenagers are using heroin less frequently than their peers in other states.

Age 12–17

  • United States – .07 percent
  • Southern Region – .07 percent
  • Alabama – .01 percent

Age 18 And Older

  • United States – .36 percent
  • Southern Region – .30 percent
  • Alabama – .35 percent

Unfortunately, while the use of heroin is lower in Alabama than it is nationwide, use of prescription opioid painkillers is on the rise. Children and adults used these opioid medications at a higher rate over the past year than residents of other states.

Age 12–17

  • United States – 3.72 percent
  • Southern Region – 3.94 percent
  • Alabama – 5.05 percent

Age 18 And Older

  • United States – 4.54 percent
  • Southern Region – 4.48 percent
  • Alabama – 5.15 percent

Drug Overdoses and Fatalities

Opioid-related drug overdoses are on the rise in the United States, and many of these overdoses prove fatal. Opioid use leads to more than 300,000 emergency room visits across the country every year. Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids has tripled. This figure includes both prescription pain relievers and heroin. An estimated 91 Americans die every day from opioid-related overdoses.

Alabama is not immune to this nationwide trend, and residents are struggling with the same epidemic that has gripped the rest of the nation. Of the 50 states, Alabama ranks 18th for drug-related deaths.

Addiction’s Impact On Children And Families

The use and use of substances have had sobering consequences for children across the United States. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that almost three-fourths of all states saw a dramatic increase in the number of children entering foster care. For 92,000 children, parental substance use was the primary reason for removal from the home and placement in foster care in 2016.

National And State Responses To Addiction Trends

The federal government has put a number of measures in place to address the nationwide increase in substance use.

  • The FDA has implemented changes to labeling requirements for immediate-release opioid medications, and the agency has supported industry efforts to develop medication formulas that deter use.
  • The DEA has placed hydrocodone medications in a more restrictive controlled-substance category.
  • The CDC has created detailed guidelines for physicians who are prescribing these medications.
  • A federal effort is underway to release funds for use in syringe exchange programs.

Alabama lawmakers and public health agencies are working hard to provide assistance for individuals struggling with substance use. In 2015, Alabama passed a law to protect “good Samaritans” who provide help to suspected victims of overdose by administering naloxone, an opioid-reversal medication. In 2016, a separate law was passed to give state and county health officers the authority to write standing orders for naloxone.

Alabama is also working to comply with recommendations from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which include the following steps:

  • Increasing access to treatment
  • Reducing unmet treatment needs
  • Addressing the epidemic of opioid-related deaths through prevention, treatment and recovery programs

SAMHSA’s recommendations came with funding, and states have received some financial support for implementation. Alabama received a total of $7,967,873 in federal funds for use between May 1, 2017 and April 30, 2018.

Alabama’s action plan is focused on seven categories:

  • Expanded access to treatment for substance use disorders
  • Increased access to FDA-approved medications for treatment of substance use disorders
  • Enhanced retention in treatment for those who have diagnosed conditions related to substance use
  • Training for Alabama healthcare providers who offer services for individuals suffering from addiction
  • Greater public awareness of substance-related issues, including the prevalence of opioid misuse in Alabama and available treatment options
  • Increased naloxone supply to areas with high rates of overdose fatalities
  • Implementation of community-based prevention and education programs

The money invested in Alabama inpatient drug rehab and outpatient treatment centers promises a substantial return, both in the health of residents and the cost of healthcare. Prevention programs will also benefit communities. Research shows that for every dollar spent on these educational services, there is $10 in treatment-related savings.

Alabama Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment programs vary widely in the level of care provided. Generally, each patient is assessed and a customized treatment plan is formed, based on individual needs. Some of the most common options available in Alabama include detox, inpatient drug rehab, and outpatient treatment.

Alabama Inpatient Detox

Often, the first step to recovering from addiction is going through a detoxification process. Detox is a critical component of long-term treatment for those who have a physical substance dependence. Alabama inpatient drug rehab centers are prepared to manage this part of the process, which may include medication for withdrawal symptoms and monitoring by a trained physician.

Alabama Inpatient Drug Rehab

Once any physical dependence has been addressed, specialized healthcare providers offer therapy to manage the mental and behavioral components of addiction. More than 100 Alabama inpatient drug rehab centers operate throughout the state.

Inpatient drug rehab is often the most effective treatment option, partially because it removes those suffering from drug addiction from stressful settings and environmental triggers that lead to cravings. These programs typically rely on a combination of therapies to support their patients, such as:

  • Individual, group and family counseling
  • Support groups for patients and their loved ones
  • Behavior-specific therapy
  • Stress management and life skills training
  • Nutrition education
  • Physical fitness opportunities
  • Complementary therapies, such as yoga, massage, and acupuncture

Alabama Outpatient Drug Rehab

Some patients benefit from outpatient treatment once they have completed their inpatient programs. Alabama outpatient drug rehab centers use many of the same therapies as inpatient programs, though patients return to their homes each night. These programs are effective at supporting patients in recovery through the transition from a fully supported inpatient environment to a more independent home environment.

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How To Pay For Alabama Drug Rehab

The cost of addiction treatment programs is often the most significant barrier to getting help for a substance use disorder. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to pay for addiction treatment.


Private health insurance plans cover mental health treatment and addiction treatment at comparable rates to other services. Out-of-pocket expenses will vary depending on the health insurance plan and the treatment needed.

Insurance providers offering coverage in Alabama include:

  • Assurant Health
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama
  • Humana Health Services
  • UnitedHealthOne Health Insurance
  • Medicaid and Medicare are also accepted at some treatment facilities.


Many treatment centers will assist clients in securing a private loan to pay for treatment, taking some of the guesswork out of the process. Addiction treatment centers may also create a payment plan to allow clients to pay for treatment over time.

Traveling For Addiction Treatment

When considering where to seek treatment, remember that the best treatment program for a person’s unique needs might not be right around the corner.
Traveling for addiction treatment has several benefits:

  • Increased privacy
  • Potentially higher-quality care than local treatment centers
  • Improved focus on therapy and removal from triggering environments

Vertava Health offers effective, compassionate treatment in several states across the country, and we can help people find the care they need—wherever they are.