Drug Use by State: 2018’s Problem Areas
Drug abuse has a long and storied history in the United States, and we’ve been “at war” with it since 1971 under the Nixon administration. But no matter who is in office, the federal drug budget continues to increase. It’s moved from $23.8 billion in 2013 to almost $27.5 billion in 2017.
The current administration seems to be taking a hardline approach to drug use. President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have advocated for strict sentences for drug-related offenses, even as far as the death penalty in some cases.
Given the uncertain future and lack of significant progress to date, it’s fair to wonder where drug abuse is most pronounced and which areas are most at risk in the current political climate. This report attempts to answer those questions by comparing the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 20 key metrics, ranging from arrest and overdose rates to opioid prescriptions and meth-lab incidents per capita. Continue reading for the complete findings, commentary from a panel of researchers and a full description of the methodology used.
Highest Drug Use by State
‘Drug Use & Addiction’ Rank
‘Law Enforcement’ Rank
‘Drug Health Issues & Rehab’ Rank
|1||District of Columbia||62.97||1||22||1|
For a better understanding of America’s relationship with drugs and advice on what people can do if they think a friend or family member has a problem, we asked the following questions to a panel of drug-addiction experts. You can find their bios and responses below.
- What are the most effective measures state and local authorities can take to combat the opioid epidemic?
- Why do American doctors over-prescribe pain medication? To what degree is this responsible for the current epidemic?
- What should family or friends do if they suspect someone has a drug problem?
- Do you think Naloxone – the drug used to counteract overdoses – should be readily available to anyone who requests it?
- Should the federal government require all rehab facilities to accept Medicaid as a form of payment? What other steps should Federal officials take to improve access to treatment?
In order to determine which states have the biggest drug problems, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia in three overall categories: 1) Drug Use & Addiction, 2) Law Enforcement and 3) Drug Health Issues & Rehab.
Those categories include a total of 20 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the biggest drug problem.
We then determined each state and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score. This total score was the basis for our final ranking. So the state ranked 1st in this study has the biggest drug problem, based on the data at hand, while the state ranked 51st has the smallest drug problem.
Drug Use & Addiction – Total Points: 50
- Share of Teenagers Who Used Illicit Drugs in the Past Month: Double Weight (~6.67 Points)
- Share of Teenagers Who Tried Marijuana Before Age 13: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Share of Teenagers Offered, Sold or Given an Illegal Drug on School Property in the Past Year: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Share of Adults Who Used Illicit Drugs in the Past Month: Triple Weight (~10.00 Points)
- Number of Opioid Pain Reliever Prescriptions per 100 People: Double Weight (~6.67 Points)
- Number of Methamphetamine Lab Incidents (population adj): Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: The square root of the population was used to calculate the “Number of Residents” in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across states.
- Overdose Deaths per Capita: Quadruple Weight (~13.33 Points)
- Overdose Deaths Growth (2016 vs 2015): Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Law Enforcement – Total Points: 25
- Drug Arrests per Capita: Half Weight (~2.78 Points)
- Drug Arrests on College Campuses per 1,000 Students: Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
- Prescription Drug Monitoring Laws: Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
- 1 – States with a prescription drug monitoring law that requires doctors to consult an opioid prescription database before prescribing painkillers.
- 0.5 – States with a prescription drug monitoring law that does not require doctors to consult an opioid database.
- 0 – States with no prescription drug monitoring laws.
- Maternity Drug Policy (Is Substance Abuse During Pregnancy a Crime?): Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
- States with Employee Drug Testing Laws: Full Weight (~5.56 Points)
- 1 – Authorized
- 0 – Currently Not Available
Drug Health Issues & Rehab – Total Points: 25
- Share of Adults Who Needed but Didn’t Receive Treatment for Illicit Drug Use in the Past Year: Double Weight (~5.56 Points)
- Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities per 100,000 People (12 Years and Older) Using Illicit Drugs: Double Weight (~5.56 Points)
- Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services per 100,000 People (12 Years and Older) Using Illicit Drugs: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
- Naloxone Availability without Individual Prescription: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
- Share of Addiction Treatment Medication Paid by Medicaid: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
- Narcotics Anonymous & Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings Accessibility: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
- Substance Abuse & Behavioural Disorder Counsellors per Capita: Full Weight (~2.78 Points)
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Project Know, the Pew Charitable Trusts, Guttmacher Institute, OHS Health & Safety Services, CVS Health, IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, Recovery.org and Pro Publica.
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