Drug Abuse Across America: Where Does Your State Rank?
By Christopher A. Parrella, J.D., CHC, CPC, CPCO
It’s been nearly a half century since President Richard Nixon called for a war on drugs and signed the Controlled Substances Act into law. Since then, harsher laws have been passed and enforcement efforts have increased. Yet, the country continues to be plagued by drug abuse. Ironically, a new report from Wallethub finds that the nation’s capital, where the battle first emerged, has the highest use of drugs in the country.
Washington, D.C. scored a ranking of 59.95 out of 100, based on 22 key metrics ranging from arrest and overdose rates to opioid prescriptions and employee drug testing laws. Each of the metrics was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the biggest drug problem. The data was gathered from a variety of sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Washington, D.C. was followed by Michigan (58.59), Missouri (57.93), West Va. (56.62), and Indiana (54.96). Minnesota ranked the lowest at 25.14.
The report found Rhode Island had the highest percentage of teenage drug users, while Utah had the lowest percentage. Oregon had the highest percentage of adult drug users, while North Dakota had the lowest. Statistics show that marijuana is still one of the most used drugs by teens. Although marijuana has become legal to use in many states, it’s only legal for those 21 and older.
As the nation continues to struggle with an opioid epidemic, the report found Alabama had the most opioid prescriptions per 100 people, whereas Washington, D.C. had the fewest. However, if you’re talking about opioid-related deaths, then Florida should have made that list. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse figures, Florida’s death rate from opioid overdoses exceeds the national average at 16.3 per 100,000 persons.
Numerous steps have been taken to address the opioid epidemic, from President Donald Trump declaring a national emergency in August 2017, to Congress passing legislation in 2018 penalizing companies for over-prescribing drugs. In late May, Oklahoma’s Attorney General Mike Hunter took on big pharma in what is being called the first major test in the country to hold a pharmaceutical company responsible for the opioid epidemic. Hunter sued Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Two days before the trial started, Teva announced an $85 million settlement.
West Va., Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. tied for the top spot for most overdose deaths per capita, while Nebraska came in at the bottom. The study does not specify what drugs caused the overdoses.
There was a three-way tie for the most drug arrests per capita with South Dakota, Wyoming and South Carolina earning the top spot. Alaska ranked at the bottom. It’s important to note none of the top states for arrests have legalized marijuana. In fact, possession of even a small amount of marijuana in South Dakota can land you in jail for a year, along with a $2,000 fine. In Wyoming, state lawmakers voted to legalized industrial hemp, which is good for farmers, but it’s still not legal for users. In South Carolina, medical patients are permitted to use CBD oil that contains no more than 0.9 percent THC, which can only be recommended by licensed physicians under FDA-approved clinical trials.
Alaska had the fewest drug arrests per capita, followed by Massachusetts, Washington, Vermont and Rhode Island.
Those arrest statistics could soon change given the recent surge of marijuana trafficking arrests taking place at airports in California. A recent story in the Los Angeles Times suggests that the glut of available cannabis in California has led to an increase in the illegal exportation of the drug to states where it is not as readily available, even if it is legal.
Nevada tops the list for having the fewest substance abuse treatment facilities per 100,000 drug users, followed by Washington, D.C., Texas, California and Oregon. North Dakota has the most such facilities.
The war on drugs may have started with President Nixon in 1971, but it’s clear more ammunition is needed. Recognizing there is a problem is a first step. This can be accomplished in the privacy of your own home, or in the workplace. EZ Test Cup’s five and 12-panel urine analysis cups test drugs in five minutes or less with 99 percent accuracy. They are available for personal or professional use and are FDA approved and CLIA waived.
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