States With The Highest Rates of Drug Use

According to the CDC, 40,393 people died of drug-induced causes in 2010—this means there’s a drug-induced death in the U.S. every 13 minutes.

BetterDoctor crunched the numbers to identify the states  where illicit drugs pose greater risks for people, and where legal addictive substances are used the most to help raise awareness about National Prevention Week 2015 – an annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues taking place this May 17-23. BetterDoctor advocates leading a healthy lifestyle and limiting the use of narcotics–preventative care is they key to keeping your body healthy and your medical bills low.

Drug use is on the rise, growing from 8.3% in 2002 to 9.2% in 2012.  This mainly reflects an increase in marijuana usage, and the use of other drugs has not changed much over the past decade.

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How does your state compare?

We looked at state-by-state rates of illicit drug use (including marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription-type psychotherapeutics used nonmedically).  We also broke out the illicit drug use by two major drugs, cocaine and pain relievers used nonmedically, and we included rates of usage for two legal vices, alcohol and tobacco, for comparison.  We included a table of all data at the bottom of the article.

We found some surprising results.

Trends and Takeaways:

–       Widespread usage of illegal drugs does not necessarily correlate to widespread usage of legal items such as tobacco and alcohol.  Kentucky, for example, came in 40th for illicit drug use but #1 for tobacco use.  While illicit drugs are dangerous, legal substances can be as dangerous or more dangerous. Although a state may have a low rate of illicit drug use, residents can still become addicted to other dangerous substances.

–       States in the West tend to have higher illicit drug use rates.  Rhode Island came in #1 for illicit drug use, but Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Montana, Nevada and California were in the top ten.

–       Southern states tend to have high tobacco use rates.  The top ten included Kentucky, West Virginia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Wyoming and Alabama.

States with the highest drug use rates

The states are ordered by illicit drug use, and tobacco and alcohol use are displayed for comparison purposes. Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription-type psychotherapeutics used nonmedically.

Illicit drug use ranking State  Illicit Drug Use in the Past Month Tobacco use ranking Tobacco use in the past month Alcohol abuse ranking Alcohol abuse or dependence in the past year
1 Rhode Island 15.43% 26 29.30% 2 9.28%
2 Oregon 14.13% 31 28.16% 12 7.97%
3 Alaska 14.11% 14 33.36% 6 8.77%
4 Vermont 14.08% 23 29.77% 29 7.04%
5 District of Columbia 13.75% 39 26.90% 1 12.36%
6 Colorado 12.19% 21 30.40% 8 8.50%
7 Washington 11.91% 42 26.26% 11 8.12%
8 Montana 11.46% 17 32.30% 9 8.47%
9 Nevada 11.03% 27 28.91% 3 9.21%
10 California 11.00% 50 20.88% 21 7.44%
11 New Mexico 10.98% 37 27.54% 17 7.53%
12 Massachusetts 10.79% 46 25.02% 10 8.26%
13 Michigan 10.72% 16 32.65% 24 7.30%
14 New Hampshire 10.18% 38 27.53% 30 6.98%
15 Maine 9.76% 22 29.95% 36 6.63%
16 New York 9.71% 45 25.57% 34 6.81%
17 Connecticut 9.42% 44 26.16% 13 7.97%
18 Ohio 9.37% 11 33.94% 27 7.14%
19 Arizona 9.36% 35 28.02% 23 7.31%
20 Hawaii 9.25% 51 20.76% 25 7.27%
21 Delaware 9.07% 25 29.66% 22 7.34%
22 South Carolina 8.70% 5 35.02% 40 6.28%
23 Illinois 8.63% 33 28.07% 18 7.51%
24 Indiana 8.38% 6 34.98% 26 7.15%
25 Florida 8.24% 43 26.18% 42 6.14%
26 Minnesota 8.16% 29 28.52% 15 7.74%
27 Oklahoma 8.15% 4 37.06% 7 8.54%
28 Wisconsin 7.97% 28 28.69% 19 7.47%
29 Pennsylvania 7.89% 18 31.49% 35 6.75%
30 New Jersey 7.82% 48 24.74% 31 6.98%
31 North Carolina 7.61% 24 29.71% 51 4.99%
32 Alabama 7.51% 10 34.14% 50 5.10%
33 Mississippi 7.45% 3 37.31% 48 5.33%
34 Arkansas 7.30% 13 33.39% 47 5.44%
35 Iowa 7.28% 30 28.16% 16 7.71%
36 Virginia 7.23% 41 26.47% 41 6.23%
37 Missouri 7.14% 15 33.35% 39 6.35%
38 Georgia 7.10% 32 28.13% 45 5.48%
39 Maryland 7.08% 47 24.94% 38 6.36%
40 Kentucky 7.02% 1 40.23% 46 5.45%
41 Wyoming 7.01% 9 34.35% 14 7.94%
42 Tennessee 6.96% 8 34.82% 43 6.03%
43 Idaho 6.92% 36 27.93% 28 7.09%
44 South Dakota 6.84% 12 33.55% 5 9.12%
45 Texas 6.83% 40 26.52% 32 6.89%
46 Louisiana 6.79% 7 34.94% 33 6.88%
47 West Virginia 6.77% 2 38.68% 44 5.88%
48 Nebraska 6.57% 34 28.04% 20 7.45%
49 North Dakota 6.08% 19 31.37% 4 9.13%
50 Utah 6.00% 49 21.01% 49 5.16%
51 Kansas 5.12% 20 31.23% 37 6.39%

Here’s a breakdown of illicit drug use into two common drugs, cocaine and the nonmedical use of pain relievers.

State Illicit drug use ranking  Illicit Drug Use in the Past Month Cocaine use ranking Cocaine use in the past year Nonmedical use of pain relievers ranking Nonmedical use of pain relievers in the past year
Alabama 32 7.51% 49 1.23% 10 4.96%
Alaska 3 14.11% 21 1.72% 18 4.77%
Arizona 19 9.36% 7 2.13% 7 5.14%
Arkansas 34 7.30% 36 1.40% 2 5.53%
California 10 11.00% 12 2.00% 19 4.71%
Colorado 6 12.19% 3 2.56% 16 4.84%
Connecticut 17 9.42% 10 2.03% 47 3.80%
Delaware 21 9.07% 11 2.02% 4 5.33%
District of Columbia 5 13.75% 1 3.19% 22 4.58%
Florida 25 8.24% 18 1.81% 48 3.76%
Georgia 38 7.10% 25 1.66% 41 3.96%
Hawaii 20 9.25% 23 1.70% 37 4.06%
Idaho 43 6.92% 46 1.31% 8 5.08%
Illinois 23 8.63% 15 1.88% 38 4.03%
Indiana 24 8.38% 48 1.29% 3 5.45%
Iowa 35 7.28% 50 1.21% 49 3.62%
Kansas 51 5.12% 42 1.36% 45 3.85%
Kentucky 40 7.02% 30 1.48% 32 4.31%
Louisiana 46 6.79% 22 1.70% 24 4.48%
Maine 15 9.76% 19 1.80% 30 4.36%
Maryland 39 7.08% 35 1.42% 43 3.86%
Massachusetts 12 10.79% 14 1.92% 46 3.85%
Michigan 13 10.72% 37 1.40% 14 4.86%
Minnesota 26 8.16% 40 1.39% 40 3.99%
Mississippi 33 7.45% 39 1.40% 20 4.65%
Missouri 37 7.14% 47 1.29% 29 4.38%
Montana 8 11.46% 29 1.56% 23 4.56%
Nebraska 48 6.57% 31 1.46% 42 3.87%
Nevada 9 11.03% 34 1.42% 5 5.24%
New Hampshire 14 10.18% 9 2.04% 33 4.26%
New Jersey 30 7.82% 13 1.97% 28 4.41%
New Mexico 11 10.98% 6 2.14% 9 5.07%
New York 16 9.71% 4 2.23% 39 4.00%
North Carolina 31 7.61% 26 1.64% 25 4.46%
North Dakota 49 6.08% 44 1.33% 50 3.61%
Ohio 18 9.37% 27 1.61% 15 4.84%
Oklahoma 27 8.15% 43 1.35% 11 4.96%
Oregon 2 14.13% 8 2.05% 1 5.65%
Pennsylvania 29 7.89% 17 1.83% 44 3.85%
Rhode Island 1 15.43% 2 2.77% 6 5.18%
South Carolina 22 8.70% 20 1.77% 17 4.81%
South Dakota 44 6.84% 51 0.98% 51 3.58%
Tennessee 42 6.96% 32 1.44% 13 4.92%
Texas 45 6.83% 33 1.43% 27 4.42%
Utah 50 6.00% 16 1.84% 26 4.42%
Vermont 4 14.08% 5 2.21% 21 4.63%
Virginia 36 7.23% 45 1.33% 36 4.18%
Washington 7 11.91% 24 1.69% 12 4.92%
West Virginia 47 6.77% 28 1.57% 34 4.24%
Wisconsin 28 7.97% 41 1.38% 31 4.34%
Wyoming 41 7.01% 38 1.40% 35 4.21%

Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription-type psychotherapeutics used nonmedically.

Data is from 2012, which is the most recent year for which the survey data has been collected and analyzed.

Data was obtained from SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Flickr // Neil Moralee

Divya Raghavan

Hi! I'm Divya. I lead marketing at BetterDoctor. I'm a Midwesterner, vegetarian and Harvard graduate.

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