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Drug Use By State: 2017's Problem Areas
Updated May 17, 2017 7:20 AM
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(UNDATED) - The personal-finance website WalletHub released a study on the States with the Biggest Drug Problems in 2017 to highlight the areas that stand to be most affected.

Indiana ranked 14th on the list.

John S. Kiernan, Senior Writer and Editor of WalletHub reports, drug abuse has a long and storied history in the United States. It progressed from "a serious national threat" in 1969 to "public enemy No. 1" when President Richard Nixon declared war in 1971. That didn't quite work out, so Nancy Reagan told us to "just say no" in 1984. And her husband began to implement policies that would disproportionately criminalize "crack" cocaine and send prison populations skyrocketing.

Since then, George H.W. Bush tried to take a "child by child" approach. His son subsequently admitted to cocaine use. Bill Clinton "experimented with marijuana a time or two" but "didn't inhale." Barack Obama "inhaled frequently" because "that was the point." And from 2013 through 2016 alone, American taxpayers spent roughly $327 billion on drug-control efforts.

So where has all of that left us? President Trump says he's never done drugs, but America as a whole can't seem to quit. The number of people who admit to ever using an illicit drug actually rose from 1979 (31.3%) to 2015 (48.8%), according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Annual overdose deaths have more than tripled from 2000 (17,415) to 2015 (52,404). And over 11 times more people were in prisons and jails for drug offenses in 2015 (469,545) than in 1980 (40,900), according to The Sentencing Project.

Complicating matters, the current administration has sent mixed messages about how seriously it takes the problem. On the one hand, President Trump established a commission to study the opioid epidemic. On the other, the administration has proposed cutting the Office of National Drug Control Policy's budget by 95% and classifying addiction as a preexisting condition.

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 15 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.

WalletHub's study compares the 50 states and the District in terms of 15 key metrics, ranging from arrest and overdose rates to Opioid prescriptions and meth-lab incidents per capita.

States with the Biggest Drug Problems:

  1. District of Columbia

  2. Vermont

  3. Colorado

  4. Delaware

  5. Rhode Island

  6. Oregon

  7. Connecticut

  8. Arizona

  9. Massachusetts

  10. Michigan

  11. New Hampshire

  12. West Virginia

  13. New York

  14. Indiana

  15. Louisiana

Key Stats:

Alabama has 142.9 opioid pain reliever prescriptions for every 100 residents, leading the nation. On the other end of the spectrum, there are 52.0 opioid prescriptions for every 100 Hawaiians.

West Virginia has 42 drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 residents. That is six times more than Nebraska, which has the fewest overdose deaths, at 7 per 100,000 residents.

Colorado has the highest percentage of teens who used illicit drugs in the past month, at 14.58 percent. That is 2.5 times higher than in Iowa, which has the lowest rate (6.31 percent).

New Jersey has the highest percentage of teens who have been offered, sold or given an illegal drug on school property, at 30.70 percent. That is 2.6 times higher than in Iowa (11.90 percent), the state with the lowest rate.

Colorado has the highest percentage of adults who used illicit drugs in the past month, at 17.06 percent, topping South Dakota's low (5.76 percent) by 2.8 times.

At 16.50 percent, the percentage of New Mexico teens who tried marijuana before age 13 is 4.3 times higher than in Utah (3.70 percent), where teens are least likely to do so.

Nearly 9 out of every 1,000 South Dakotans have been arrested for a drug violation, which is the country's highest rate. Vermont, at the low end, has just over 1 drug arrest per 1,000 residents.

The District of Columbia has the highest percentage of adults who needed but didn't receive treatment for illicit drug use in the past year, at 3.21 percent. That is 1.5 times higher than in Wyoming (1.83 percent), which has the lowest rate.

To view the full report and learn about drug abuse in your state, please visit:

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