CHICAGO (Reuters) - Vermont leads the United States in marijuana use, while Utah has the highest number of people reporting mental health problems, U.S. government researchers said on Thursday, based on a new state-by-state report.
They said substance abuse and mental health issues vary widely by state, but all struggle with these problems to some degree.
"This report shows that although states may be uniquely affected by serious public health problems like underage drinking, every state and region must confront these issues," said Terry Cline, chief of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which compiled the study.
The report found rates of underage drinking in 2005 and 2006 ranged from a low of 21.5 percent in Utah to a high of 38.3 percent in Vermont.
Yet Utah had the highest rate of adults reporting serious psychological problems at 14.4 percent in the same period, compared with Hawaii, which had the lowest at 8.8 percent.
The report takes a state-by-state look at 23 measures of substance use or mental health problems, based on combined data from national surveys done in 2005 and 2006.
It includes data from 136,110 people and offers the most recent and most comprehensive look at individual state issues to date, said Dr. Westley Clark, a substance abuse expert at SAMHSA, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"Our hope is this report will allow people to do strategic planning to address specific issues," Clark said in a telephone interview.
The study shows a contrast in the use of illicit drugs by state.
In North Dakota, just 5.7 percent of people aged 12 and older used an illicit drug in the month prior to being surveyed, compared with a high of 11.2 percent in Rhode Island.
Vermont led the nation in marijuana use by a number of measures. Among those 12 and older, 15.5 percent of those in Vermont said they had used marijuana in the prior 12 months, and 41.9 percent of young adults aged 18 to 25 said they had used marijuana in the prior year.
Utah, by contrast, had the lowest rates of marijuana use among young adults, with 18.9 percent of those 18-25 saying they had used it in the past year. Just 4.3 percent of those 12 and older in Utah said they had used marijuana in the prior month.
Cocaine use was highest in the District of Columbia during the combined survey years of 2005-2006 at 2.4 percent of those 12 and older. It was lowest in North Dakota at 1.6 percent.
Georgia had the lowest level of underage binge drinking of alcohol, with 15.2 percent reporting a binge episode in the prior month, compared with a high of 28.5 percent in North Dakota.
Clark said the report should help states make the best use of limited funding. "The better data we have, the better decisions and choices we can make and exercise," he said.
Editing by Maggie Fox and Eric Walsh