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Rural Health Information Hub

Module 1: Substance Use Disorders in Rural Communities

Substance use disorders (SUDs) occur when an individual's use of alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs causes problems in his or her life. Problems can include difficulty meeting responsibilities at home or work, disability, and health issues. SUDs are a growing problem in rural communities. As with all communities in the U.S., rural communities have seen dramatic increases in rates of opioid misuse and overdose, while lacking the services and substance use treatment facilities that are often more available in urban and suburban areas.

Rural communities face major barriers to treatment for SUDs. Rural areas have fewer providers and facilities to diagnose and treat behavioral health conditions, and rural providers often offer services in a wider geographic area compared to urban and suburban areas. The close-knit nature of rural communities also contributes to challenges related to confidentiality, privacy, and stigma for people who are misusing substances or living with an SUD. Lastly, the SUD treatment system is complex and can be difficult to navigate.

For general information on what to consider when starting a rural program, see Creating a Program: Where to Begin in the Rural Community Health Toolkit.

This module defines SUDs and explains the need for prevention and treatment programs in rural communities.

In this module: