Friday, August 03, 2018

Study shows urban, rural access to illegal drugs the same; researcher says more studies needed in rural areas

Though popular media often depicts illegal drug use as an urban problem, a new University of Nebraska-Lincoln study shows it's just as easy to get drugs in rural areas. The study was published in July in the Journal of Drug Issues.

Sociologist Patrick Habecker, who led the study, found that more than one-third of both urban and rural residents could get marijuana through someone they know. "The study also found that 18 percent of Nebraskans surveyed in the Nebraska Annual Social Indicators Survey reported access to prescription pills, including opioids. Nine percent reported access to methamphetamine and 5 percent said they knew at least one person from whom they could obtain heroin," Deann Gayman reports for the university's press shop.

Habecker said the study only examined social access, so the actual accessibility of illegal drugs in Nebraska is probably much higher. It didn't account for other sources such as internet delivery.

While social access was about the same for both rural and urban residents, other factors did make a difference in people's ability to access marijuana: older people and regular churchgoers were less likely to know a marijuana source. Regular church attendance also reduced the odds of knowing a prescription-pill source in rural areas. And lesser-educated people were more likely to know a prescription-pill source, Gayman reports.

Habecker and colleauges have been tracking rural drug-use trends and say this study could help authorities understand more about how to fight it. "There has not been a lot of focus on rural substance use in general," Habecker told Gayman. "It’s largely been city-focused, and it’s clear that should probably change."

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