Drug abuse has been a growing problem in the United States for decades. Although there have been many efforts to lower the number of people using and addicted to illegal drugs in the country, the numbers have been rising. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of drug users and overdose deaths rose. In the twelve-month period between April 2020 and April 2021, over 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses. This was a 28.5% increase over the previous year.
A report by WalletHub looked at data comparing the overdose rates, amount of opioid prescriptions, drug arrests, and other statistics to see which states have the most issues with drug use and abuse. This also gives insight into which states and areas could be better targeted with education and rehabilitation efforts.
When data was compiled, three main categories were compared: drug use and addiction, law enforcement, and drug health issues and rehab. Each was ranked and weighted to come up with an overall score.
The states and territories with the highest scores include West Virginia(58.42), the District of Columbia (57.24), Arkansas (54.02), Missouri (53.36), New Mexico (52.67), Nevada (52.41), Colorado (52.40), Michigan (52.09), Oregon (49.66), and Tennessee(48.91).
Conversely, the ten states with the lowest overall scores were Minnesota (22.93), Hawaii (25.20), Utah (28.57), Idaho (30.30), Iowa (32.81), North Dakota (33.19), Nebraska (33.58), Virginia (33.77), South Dakota (33.87), and Georgia (34.18).
One of the concerns for many people regarding drug use and abuse is the number of teenagers who are using and abusing drugs. Because of this, it is important to study where drug use is highest in this age group. By targeting teenagers for rehabilitation, it may be possible to lower the number of life-long drug users.
Arizona, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Vermont have the highest percentage of teen drug users. The lowest percentage of teen drug users can be found in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Wyoming.
Vermont is the only state that ranks at the top of states with a high percentage of adult drug users as well. Other states with a high percentage of adult drug users are Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia. The lowest percentage of adult drug users are located in Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia.
Opioids have been responsible for many of the growing issues regarding drug use and overdose in the country. Many medical professionals are making efforts to decrease the prescription of opioids in order to reduce dependence and illicit use. States that have the lowest number of opioid prescriptions per 100 residents are California, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York. The Highest number of opioid prescriptions are written in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana.
Looking at all of these statistics on drug users and opioid prescription, there are some links that can be made to states with the highest overdose deaths. The states with the highest number of deaths are Tennessee, Kentucky, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Ohio, and West Virginia. Of these, only three are not in the highest of teen drug users, adult drug users, or opioid prescriptions.
Similarly, the states with the lowest number of overdose deaths correlate to lower numbers in other categories as well. Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Iowa, and Montana are the states with the fewest overdose deaths. Only Iowa and Montana were not also in the list of states with the lowest percentage of adult drug users.