15 Maps Show Drug Use Across U.S.

It’s no secret that drug abuse occurs in every community and every state in the U.S. But how, exactly, do the rates of drug use, and the drugs themselves, vary across the nation? Recent numbers released by the 2010-2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) are now available in graph and map form, showing which regions and states have the worst drug abuse rates, and which drugs are preferred. What’s your state’s biggest drug vice? Read on below to find out.

Noteworthy Insights

The survey results, which are put together by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), offer many insights into the country’s drug use and addiction. Some of the insights that stand out are: • Utah, Nebraska and the Dakotas consistently show some of the lowest use rates of marijuana and other illegal drugs. • Illegal drug addiction rates are low among teens, with rates at only 2 percent to 3 percent in most states. • The northern half of the U.S. shows the highest rates of alcohol use and binge drinking. • The American South shows the highest rates of tobacco and cigarette use. • Vermont has the highest rate of illegal drug use of any state with 15 percent reporting using in the last month alone. • Sadly, the states that show the greatest rates of abuse for a certain drug also tend to show the lowest perception of associated risk, even among minors.


When looking at the maps illustrating marijuana use and overall illegal drug use, it’s worth noting that the states with the highest use rates include those that have legal medical marijuana programs (Colorado and Washington have since legalized marijuana outright). This skews the numbers a bit, as marijuana is still considered a federally illegal drug. Unsurprisingly, when marijuana is excluded from the illegal drug list, the rates state by state change dramatically. Many of the marijuana-favoring states, including Maine, Alaska and Hawaii, tend to show lower use rates of other illegal drugs compared to other states. The states that show low rates of marijuana use and a high perception of marijuana health risks, on the other hand, show a greater abuse of other illegal drugs. These states include Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Prescription Pill Abuse

Prescription pill abuse is much more widespread than cocaine, the maps show. Unlike other drugs, prescription pill abuse appears scattered throughout the nation, changing state by state through every age group. The western U.S. appears to have the greatest overall prescription abuse rates, but some Midwestern states and parts of America’s heartland show high levels of abuse as well.

Alcohol Abuse

The maps provide interesting insights on alcohol abuse across the U.S. Across all age groups, the rates of binge drinking and moderate drinking were significantly higher in the northern half of the U.S. than the southern half, especially the southeast and southwest regions. The Midwest and New England had some of the highest drinking rates. Unsurprisingly, Utah consistently had the lowest drinking rates. Alcoholism, on the other hand, is quite common in many southwestern states, including California, Arizona and Nevada.

Tobacco Use Insights

Tobacco use rates have, thankfully, fallen in the last two decades, thanks to the efforts of educational ad campaigns, higher tax rates and stricter laws. This legal drug is still quite popular, however, especially in certain U.S. states. Interestingly, while the southeastern U.S. showed lower levels of alcohol abuse, the region undoubtedly has the highest rates of tobacco use (tobacco is also popular in Alaska). In fact, the maps illustrate a cluster of red and orange-labeled states surrounding the Mississippi River, showing that more than 30 percent of residents have smoked there in the past month. New York and Florida show the lowest overall tobacco rates.

Drug Dependence

The maps illustrating rates of drug and alcohol dependence are interesting. During the past year, for example, states reporting the highest addiction rates include much of the southwest and northern half of the U.S. The nation’s southeastern region, however, boasts some of the lowest drug dependence rates.

Mental Illness

Rates of “serious mental illness” vary greatly state by state through each age group. Utah, Idaho, Ohio and a handful of other Midwestern states, however, consistently show higher rates of both mental illness and reports of suicidal thoughts. When it comes to suicide, there appears to be some truth to the old wisdom that sunshine is healing, as the warmer, sunnier states show the lowest levels of suicidal thoughts and major depressive episodes. No matter where you live in the U.S., it seems that every state has its vice. Even Utah, which follows the stereotype of low alcohol and drug use, has a high rate of prescription pill abuse. Some maps raise good questions: why is tobacco so popular in the South? Is there a correlation between drinking and thoughts of suicide in the nation’s northern states? There’s no doubt that improvements can be made in every state. It will be interesting to see what changes next year’s SAMHSA estimates show.

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