Year of Publication



Public Health

Date Available


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)

Committee Chair

Dr. Min-Woong Sohn

Committee Member

Dr. Kathi Harp

Committee Member

Dr. Dana Quesinberry



While multiple options are available for the treatment of substance use disorders (SUD), 9% of individuals reported needing treatment within the last year for illicit drug or alcohol use, according to the 2020 National Survey for Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Despite concerns about widespread disparities in healthcare access and outcomes, there are limited current data regarding demographic characteristics of individuals that need treatment. It is crucial to identify these characteristics from population-based data in order to develop and implement targeted public health interventions.


The NSDUH is an annual, nationwide survey that collects data about substance use and mental health. For this study, 2020 NSDUH data from 36,284 respondents were analyzed to determine the need for treatment for SUD and corresponding demographic information. Chi-squared testing and logistic regression analysis were performed to determine if there was a statistically significant difference in the need treatment for substance use disorder across age, race, county status (rural vs urban), family income and education categories.


Analyses found significant differences in the need for treatment of SUD by age, race, income, and educational attainment categories. As age increases, the odds of needing treatment decrease (p≤.05). Compared to White Americans, Native Americans had 44% higher odds of needing treatment (p≤.05). For income, there was a gradient relationship demonstrating that the higher income groups tended to have lower odds of needing treatment. In addition, those between the ages of 12-17 were about 65% less likely to need treatment for a substance use disorder compared to college graduates (p≤.05), while those that completed some college or had an associate degree had 17% higher odds of needing treatment. No significant differences were found based on rural or urban residence.


This study found demographic differences in those who needed treatment for substance abuse in 2020. This analysis was unique in examining demographic populations during the start of a pandemic. As more data are collected and additional studies are performed, improved policies and public health opportunities can better care for individuals battling substance use disorder.

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