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Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Challenges during the Pandemic

January 05, 2023

Nearly one in three U.S. adults had either a substance use disorder or a mental illness in the past year, according to a new report from the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration.

The report, released this week, captures Americans’ experiences with mental health conditions, substance use, and treatment during 2021. Agency officials said the results will help inform efforts to expand access to care across the U.S.

“As the findings make clear, millions of Americans young and old faced mental health and substance use challenges—sometimes both at once—during the second year of the pandemic

Among the key findings:

  • Mental health:  About a quarter of adults and a third of young adults between 18 and 25 had a mental illness during the past year
  • Substance use disorder:  More than 46 million people 12 or older met the criteria for having a substance use disorder during the past year
    • 29.5 million people were classified as having an alcohol use disorder and 24 million people were classified as having a drug use disorder
  • Treatment:  94 percent of people 12 or older with a substance use disorder did not report receiving treatment
    • Nearly all people with a substance use disorder who did not get treatment at a specialty facility did not think they needed treatment
    • About 41 percent of adolescents and 61 percent of adults who had a major depressive episode reported receiving treatment for depression during the past year
  • Recovery:  About 73 percent of adults who ever had a substance use problem and 67 percent of those who ever had a mental health issue considered themselves to be recovering or in recovery
  • Quotable:  “Harnessing the power of data and evidence is critical to ensuring policies and programs have the greatest opportunity to achieve positive outcomes,” said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, HHS assistant secretary for mental health and substance use

HAP continues to advocate for policies and legislation that improve access to behavioral health services across the commonwealth. Learn more about our behavioral health priorities.

The report is available to review online.