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Utah results are mixed bag in substance-abuse report

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When it comes to substance abuse, alcohol use and mental health, Utah seems to be among the very best or the worst, according to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report released today.

The report emphasizes that while substance abuse and mental health problems vary from state to state, no state is unaffected.

For example, Utah is "best" when it comes to last-month use of alcohol among youths 12 to 20, but it's estimated that slightly more than one in five young Utahns drank. And Utah is the worst in terms of "serious psychological distress" over the past year among those 18 and older, at 14.4 percent. Hawaii, the best, had 8.8 percent.

The report offers estimates of 23 measures of substance use or mental health problems, based on the 2005 and 2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health. That's an ongoing survey of the civilian, noninstitutionalized population nationwide 12 and older. They interviewed 136,110 people, then broke the information into estimates by age group. It also looks at changes from the previous year.

Among highlights:

• Utah had the lowest rates of both past-year and past-month marijuana use among those 18 to 25 (18.9 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively). Utah was lowest in first-time use of marijuana among those 12 to 17 (4.1 percent) and 18 to 25 (4.2 percent). The report noted that marijuana use was down among all youths in every state.

• Utah also had the lowest level of past-month marijuana use among people 12 or older, at 4.3 percent. Vermont had more than double that rate, at 9.7 percent, for the nation's high.

• Past-month alcohol use ranged from a low of 32.4 percent in Utah to a high of 63.1 percent in Wisconsin, but Utah's rate was up from 30.1 percent in the previous survey. Among those 12 to 20, Utah was lowest at 21.5 percent.

• Utah also fared best in terms of tobacco use among those 12 and older (22.1 percent). Nationally, past-month use of tobacco was 25 percent; in Utah, it was 19.3 percent. And across the country, tobacco use among youths declined. But Utah had the highest rate of perception for great risk.

• Utah was among five states that saw a decrease in major depressive episodes among youths 12 to 17.

The report also noted that Utah had the best overall response rate for the survey at 77.5 percent. The low was 56.7 percent in New York.

In terms of an overall substance use disorder, whether drugs or alcohol, New Jersey had the low rate at 7.5 percent, while the high was 12.3 percent in the District of Columbia. Iowa had the lowest rate of illicit drug dependence or abuse, while Kentucky had the lowest rate of alcohol dependence of abuse.

SAMSHA is a public health agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The entire report is online at www.oas.samhsa.gov.

E-mail: lois@desnews.com