It’s hard to think about something as serious as drug addiction being trendy, but like fashion, drug and alcohol use follow fads. You don’t have to be part of a drug subculture to know that LSD was more popular in the 1970s than any period before or since. In the 1980s, cocaine was depicted in movies as part of a fast-track glamorous life and seemed to be the trendy drug of the rich and famous.
Issues of accessibility related to laws and economics sometimes affect the popularity of a particular substance. The invention of crack as a cheaper form of cocaine moved the drug into poor urban neighborhoods and increased its popularity in the 1990s. During prohibition, alcohol consumption was cut in half and remained low through the 1940s. DXM, used in over-the-counter cough syrup for decades, became a popular recreational drug in the mid-1990s when information spread via the internet about obtaining it in powder form.
Changes in access to certain substances are not the only factor that affecting drug addiction trends. We see swings in usage based on demographics, as well. Marijuana is particularly popular among teenagers, as is alcohol. More expensive drugs like cocaine tend to trend with an older crowd, and one that is more affluent. In recent years, adults over 50 represent a larger portion of drug addicts than ever before. This increase has to do with the prevalence of prescription drugs and relaxing attitudes about the dangers of self-medicating.
Perhaps the most surprising trends in drug addiction are related to geography. Drug addiction varies by region of the country. The Northeast and the Midwest seem to lead the country in drug addiction. The Northeast is the most heavily populated region of the country, so it is understandable that the drugs go where the people are. In the Midwest, relaxed attitudes and laws may affect drug use. It is interesting to trace drug addiction by state.
Alcohol Consumption by State
Alcohol is often overlooked as a dangerous addictive drug because it is the most socially acceptable drug and has enjoyed that social status for generations. Because of this lax attitude, alcohol is pervasive in our country, legal to purchase and consume in almost every community. Alcoholism wasn’t recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association until 1956.
In case you are inclined to take alcohol lightly, here are some statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) to be aware of:
• Alcohol abuse is the third leading cause of death in the US.
• Alcohol-related problems cost the US an average of $223.5 billion per year.
• According to a 2012 study, more than 10% of all children living in the US live with an alcoholic parent.
• In 2013, 16.6 million adults had an alcohol use disorder of some sort.
• Fetal Alcohol Syndrome affects 2-7 of every 1,000 pregnancies.
Most people can probably point out the states that produce alcohol – California wine country, Kentucky whisky, Wisconsin breweries – but they are probably not familiar with the states that consume the most. Here are the top ten states for alcohol consumption per capita:
• South Dakota
• North Dakota
• District of Columbia
• New Hampshire
New Hampshire is ranked number one for alcohol consumption, but the result must be qualified by the low liquor prices in that state. Since there is no tax on liquor in New Hampshire, it is likely that all of the alcohol purchased there is not only consumed by residents of the state. Neighboring Vermont also ranks in the top ten for alcohol consumption, so we could speculate that the amount of alcohol consumed between the residents of these two states is much higher than in other parts of the country.
Binge drinking is another sign of alcohol abuse and a predictor of addiction. Among the top ten states for binge drinking, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, stand out because they are also in the top ten states of overall alcohol consumption.
Some speculate that the number of bars and low cost of booze contribute to the drinking rate in the Dakotas. Wisconsin is a large beer producing state, and D.C. has a high concentration of colleges. None of these factors really explain the phenomenon, however. California produces a lot of wine but not a lot of heavy drinkers. There are over 500 colleges in Texas, but that state doesn’t appear on these lists, either.
Alcohol consumption rates are also not good indicators of abuse or addiction. An article in Business Insider lists the five states with the highest alcohol addiction rates as Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, and New Mexico. Only South Dakota and Montana appear on the other lists, with South Dakota being the only state to show up on all three lists – top consumption, top bingeing and top alcohol abuse states in the country.
Also, alcohol tends to be used in combination with other drugs, making its addiction harder to track. While alcohol abuse rates vary from state to state, it is a good assumption that every state has its share of alcohol abuse, reported or not.
Opiate Addiction by State
The number of prescriptions written for opiate painkillers varies widely from state to state. This variance can account for the addiction patterns we see. The states with the highest number of these prescriptions written are:
• North Carolina
• South Carolina
• West Virginia
If you look at these states on a map, they represent a contiguous swath of land from the Great Lakes south to the Gulf of Mexico. Opiates are popular up and down the Midwest.
Florida is not one of the highest prescribing states in the country, but their opiates problem has morphed into heroin. In January 2014, Reuters reported an epidemic of heroin abuse in the state of Florida. Abuse of opiate painkillers often leads to heroin use; from which deaths rose 89 percent in Florida from 2011 to 2012. The problem stemmed from the volume of prescription opiates being dispensed.
By taking some measures to control the number of painkiller prescriptions written, Florida reduced their overall deaths from overdose in 2012. During the same time period, however, the deaths from heroin increased dramatically. Unfortunately, Florida has more work to do now to get the heroin epidemic under control.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that by regulating pain clinics more stringently, increasing access to substance abuse programs, and implementing prescription drug monitoring programs, painkiller addiction by state can be reduced. As the Florida example points out, though, this is not a simple problem to fix since opiate addiction can lead to heroin use, and street drugs are much harder to control.
Even controlling so-called controlled substances, those requiring a prescription to obtain, is not an easy task. There is no national prescription database to use for monitoring prescription drug use. When word spreads that a state like Florida, or any of the ones on the list above, dispenses painkillers more freely than other states, addicts are going to find a way to get their drugs there.
Meth Addiction by State
Methamphetamine, known as speed, crank, meth, crystal meth, or about 30 other names, was developed as a stimulant in the early 1900s. Derived from amphetamine, methamphetamine is effective as a decongestant that works from the central nervous system. It is also highly addictive with the potential side effects of euphoria and decreased appetite. Meth is more effective, and more dangerous, than amphetamine because more of the toxic chemicals reach the brain.
Although methamphetamine is available as a prescription drug, it is only safe for short-term use and in small doses; therefore, it is rarely prescribed anymore. Illegally produced and obtained, meth in high doses is commonly abused in many different forms. Meth can be smoked, inhaled, injected or swallowed according to local availability and trends.
In 2008, there were approximately 529,000 Americans using meth on a daily basis. The percentage of drug treatment facility admissions for meth addiction rose from 3% to 9% in a ten year period.
Supply and demand continue to drive up meth use with meth labs popping up in many communities. The ease of producing meth, its popularity fueled by media attention like the hit show “Breaking Bad,” and prolonged high unemployment rates are likely helping to drive the trend. The highest number of meth labs exist in these ten states:
• South Carolina
• North Carolina
According to the Huffington Post, Missouri recently topped the list with 1,825 meth labs in 2012. The concentration of meth production in the Midwest suggests that’s where the highest usage is. Oregon and Mississippi have moved to limit meth production by restricting pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in meth, to prescription use only. Similar restrictions in other states could force a shift in meth addiction, but for now its stronghold remains the Midwestern states.
Though the other states may not be keeping up with production, there are no states without at least a couple meth labs. The only state that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reported without any meth labs in 2010 has since been put on the map. Even Rhode Island is now recognizing they have a growing meth problem with multiple lab busts making headlines.
Most Drug Addicted States
The threat to public health and safety that drug addiction causes is clear to most people. From the broken homes of alcoholics to meth lab explosions, if you look around, you can see the path of destruction caused by drug abuse. While the same laws of supply and demand govern drugs like any other commodity, adding the addiction factor makes it a far more complicated scene.
Addiction applies to many different substances, a handful of which are universally popular and unequally distributed across the fifty states. Based on reports from drug treatment facilities, excluding alcohol, marijuana is by far the most popularly abused drug by state. This statistic makes it easy to see why marijuana is often considered a gateway to other more serious drugs. The perception that everyone is smoking marijuana makes it easier for people to try it, not realizing they are potentially putting themselves on a path of destruction.
Destruction comes faster with more powerful drugs. In five states – California, Nevada, Utah, Nebraska, and Georgia – stimulant addiction is more prevalent than even marijuana abuse. Stimulants like cocaine and meth are extremely addictive, even with just one use. But the heart-racing side effects can be deadly.
Deadly results can come from any drug abuse, but heroin is probably one of the worst. Heroin and opiates surpass all others as the abused substance of choice in approximately 15 states, all east of the Mississippi River. Heroin and opiate abuse is concentrated mainly in the Northeast with the exception of Illinois, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Vermont is leading the heroin trend with an increase of 250% in the number of people seeking treatment for addiction to the substance since 2000. The number of federal indictments and heroin deaths is also up sharply in The Green Mountain State. Heroin is very addictive, and this shows what can happen when it gets into your state and gains a little momentum.
Drug addiction is a country-wide epidemic. The trends per state will fluctuate slowly under the influence of accessibility and economics, but in general, drug abuse is on the rise. Differences in laws between the states will cause some movement in the trends, especially recent changes affecting the legalization of marijuana. But drug use remains a problem in the whole country.
Drug Addiction in Your State
Knowing the addiction rates in the state where you live doesn’t really tell your story, however. Just because you don’t use the most popular drug or hang out with neighbors cooking meth in their basement doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem.
You also don’t have to live in the Northeast or the Midwest to be addicted to drugs. If you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, you probably know it. Be honest with yourself and seek treatment today. You are not alone; millions of Americans fight addiction every day in all regions of the country. Join them in that fight and help to clean up your state.
The first step toward treatment for addiction in any state is to call 12 Keys. We’ll help you understand what you can do to reduce addiction in your life, your family, and your state. 12 Keys helps people from all across the US, and many different countries, live drug-free, happier lives.
No matter what you or your loved one is addicted to, there are treatment options at 12 Keys. You can beat addiction with our help, but you need to call 12 Keys to get started.