Monitoring Substance Abuse in Durham County

Center researchers have prepared three editions of the Survey of Substance Use and Abuse in Durham County, releasing the most recent in spring 2013, sponsored by Durham Together for Resilient Youth (TRY). The goal of creating the report was to better understand the dynamics of the substance abuse problem in the Durham community.

The first edition, completed in 2007, was done at the request of the 2005 Community Health Summit and the Substance Abuse Committee of the Partnership for a Healthy Durham. The second edition, released in 2010, was funded by The Durham Center.

Substance use and addiction affect every aspect of the Durham community. One can see the effects in the homes, churches, and places of work, as well as in the emergency rooms, criminal justice system, child welfare system and homeless shelters. This report documents how substance abuse impacts the lives and families of people in the Durham community.

Researchers used the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) Substance Abuse Surveillance Network model to document the many facets of the local substance abuse problem. A substance abuse surveillance network enables a community to assess the various parts of the substance abuse problem by combining existing information from different sources. Analyzing the problem of substance abuse is like the proverbial story of people with blindfolds touching different parts of an elephant. Law enforcement, physicians, social service workers, and treatment professionals all see different aspects of the problem. They also record this information in different ways and in different places. A surveillance network pulls this existing information together to help communities define and determine the magnitude of drug problems.

Nationally, substance abuse surveillance networks have enabled communities to build an early warning network for emerging problems by tracking the types of drugs being used by age, location, race, and ethnicity; showing how substance abuse patterns are changing; developing better ways to deploy different kinds of prevention programs; and developing better ways to allocate scarce treatment resources. Generally, when agencies share information it increases cooperation across those agencies. By showing how substance abuse affects different parts of the Durham community, the report helped Durham agencies determine better ways to work together to address community problems.