Drug-Related Violence in Rural Areas
Small towns are often appealing to families because of the seemingly quaint setting, isolated from the dangers and risks of the big city. The draw of living in a place where there is no need to lock doors and where the residents all know one another.
However, the reality may be a bit different. While offering an idyllic setting for some aspects of country life, there are also some services lacking in more rural areas. Rural communities often suffer from a shortage of mental health programs and substance abuse treatment.
A recent study led by Teresa L. Kramer of the Division of Health Services Research at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arkansas examined patterns of substance-abuse related violence in rural areas. Her efforts may provide insight necessary to policymakers in order to establish adequate services for treating substance abuse.
To investigate the types of violence associated with rural substance-abuse, Kramer looked at 710 cases of rural residents who were Caucasian or African-American and had used methamphetamine or cocaine within the past thirty days. None of the participants were receiving any type of treatment.
Among the participants, there were 184 cases of physical assault within the past 12 months. Several of the individuals indicated that there had been more than one type of assault experienced, including being punched, kicked, slapped, choked, shot or stabbed.
The analysis showed that over 15 percent of assault cases involved someone other than the individual’s partner. More than eight percent involved the participant’s partner. The majority of the assault victims were women.
The research indicated that for women who were victims of violence by their partners, it was likely that they had multiple dependencies on substances, including alcohol. For men, alcohol abuse did not appear to be related to non-partner violence, though there was a connection observed with cocaine use.
The study showed that the highest rates of violence tended to affect victims who were Caucasian men who had used cocaine during the past 12 months.
Kramer said that she hopes that the results from the study will assist in the development of effective education and prevention programs in rural communities. She believes that an important component of such programs is a focus on treating cocaine-dependent individuals.
Another important aspect necessary to treat rural violence related to substance abuse is to introduce formal assessments and screenings that identify the problem. In addition, there should be resources for addressing the psychological challenges and substance abuse that are identified following an instance of assault.
Kramer also encourages that healthcare workers who treat victims of violence implement substance abuse screening into their treatment as a first intervention. An instance of violence that requires emergency treatment may provide a setting in which to distribute educational information about substance abuse-related violence.