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The Rates of Drug Abuse in Different Cities and States

a person stops a row of bricks from falling

Drug abuse is a prevalent issue across the US. So much so that, according to the NCDAS, among Americans aged 12 years and older, 31.9 million are current illegal drug users. If we include alcohol and tobacco, that number rises exponentially.

Addiction affects both the addict and the people around them, especially if treatment is not sought. Fortunately, recovery is becoming more accessible, with many rehabilitation centers opening around the country, like rehab centers in Tennessee.

However, in spite of all the help available, drug and alcohol abuse is still ongoing and the statistics are staggering. So, keep reading as we take a look at drug stats from across the USA.

Drug Use By Country

When we look at how drug abuse has affected various countries, we find that while European countries might have higher alcohol consumption, the United States of America has one of the highest illicit drug use rates in the world.

According to a 2019 survey by Our World in Data, the top five populations with the highest substance abuse disorders:

  • Scotland: 6.52%
  • Wales: 6.19%
  • United States: 6.01%
  • North America: 5.87%
  • Greenland: 5.43%

In the USA and across several countries in Eastern Europe, it was found that more than 1-in-20 (5%) people were dependent on alcohol or drugs.

Drug Use in the United States

In the USA, there are four primary substances that Americans abuse: marijuana, prescription stimulants, opioids, methamphetamines.

Breaking it down into the percentage of users per drug, we get the following stats:

  • Marijuana: 46% of overall users
  • Prescription Stimulants: 46% of overall users
  • Opioids: 36% of overall users
  • Methamphetamines: 36% of overall users

Looking at new users introduced to substance abuse each year, alcohol abuse rates are the highest with 4.9 million first-time users each year. This is most likely due to the ease of access to alcohol and the general acceptance of drinking. However, marijuana is a close second bringing in 3.1 million new users each year.

Let’s have a further look at the four primary substances affecting the USA today.


Marijuana is the next most commonly used psychoactive drug in the USA after alcohol, and it’s not slowing down as more states legalize it. According to the NCDAS, 48.2 million Americans use marijuana at least once a year.

Prescription Stimulants:

Next, we have prescription stimulants. These come in two forms: legal and illegal. Legal stimulants include prescribed medications such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta. These are available through scripts from a doctor, however, they are easily abused and often become an addiction.

In fact, there are almost 1,500 emergency room visits a year due to Adderall abuse, and insomnia and stroke can be serious side effects.


Opioids include heroin, morphine, codeine, fentanyl, methadone, tramadol, and other similar substances. If we look at data gathered by the NCDAS, we find that 3.7% of Americans misuse opioids at least once over the space of a year.

That totals a staggering 10.1 million users. Additionally, the results of a survey done in 2018 indicated that 51.3% of Americans obtain their illegal pain medication from people they know.


Finally, we have methamphetamines. It’s unsettling to find that in 2018, 1.8 million people in the US, aged 12 and up, admitted to meth use in the past year. Additionally, the 2021 meth report card found that the number of men admitted for drug treatment in San Diego was 58% which was significantly greater than women, who came in at 42%.

Controlled amphetamines, like Ritalin, are a common treatment for ADHD and narcolepsy, but this, unfortunately, makes it easier to attain and abuse, especially in the younger population who sell to their peers.

Age Groups and Drug Abuse

Speaking of the younger generation, a survey done among college students reported that:

  • 32.6% used marijuana
  • 13.3% used cocaine
  • 13% used hallucinogens
  • 9.8% reported using MDMA or Ecstasy

In fact, self-medicating is a common cause of drug abuse among the youth with 35% of college students indicating they use illegal drugs instead of prescription drugs.

Looking into the older generation, it’s found that among users who are 50 years or older, 75% of deaths from drug abuse disorders were caused by opioids like heroin, fentanyl, and morphine.

Additionally, although younger people tend to use drugs far more frequently, drug use and alcohol consumption rates among older individuals (40+) are growing faster than those among their younger counterparts.

In fact, in states like California, where we can look at rehab center admissions in San Diego, it’s found that 85% of meth-specific addiction admissions were aged 26 to 59, with only 12% being aged between 18 and 25.

While drug abuse naturally negatively impacts the user’s quality of life, it sadly can also take a toll on the country too.

Drug Abuse by States and Cities

According to a WalletHub study, the top ten states with the highest substance abuse numbers are:

  1. Missouri
  2. West Virginia
  3. Michigan
  4. District of Columbia
  5. New Hampshire
  6. New Mexico
  7. Colorado
  8. Arkansas
  9. Nevada
  10. Indiana

In fact, West Virginia has the nation’s highest rate of overdose deaths at 51.5 overdose deaths per 100,000 people, which is 7.5 times greater than South Dakota coming in at the lowest at 6.9 overdose deaths per 100,000 people.

Proactive Cities

Some states have found proactive ways of combating drug abuse in their cities. For example, drug treatment centers have been a long-standing requirement in San Diego. This is due to the use of methamphetamines being so great that, in 1996, a multidisciplinary Methamphetamine Strike Force was formed by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

According to their 2021 Meth Report Card, they found there were a staggering 16,309 admissions to the emergency room due to meth use in 2019.

While that number, unfortunately, increased from the previous year, the number of people admitted to County-funded San Diego rehab centers went down from 6,591 to 4,740.

Costs of Drug Abuse Across the USA

Looking at how much drug abuse costs the United States, in a 2017 survey, drug abuse disorders cost the US nearly $272 billion. This was calculated over crime statistics, healthcare requirements, and a decrease in work productivity, among other factors. Additionally:

  • Illegal drugs cost the US $193 billion dollars
  • Prescription opioids, which cost $78.5 billion

States and cities with high addiction rates often see a higher number of hospitalizations and, according to data from a previous survey, there were 326,000 nonfatal drug poisonings or overdose hospitalizations across the US in 2016.

However, for every new substance abuse user, there is someone else trying to get clean. In fact, in 2020 the Federal Drug Control budgets for ‘prevention and treatment’ increased from:

  • $1.8 billion for prevention to $2.1 billion
  • $6.7 billion for treatment to $15.5 billion

It’s within the country’s best interest to keep it’s population free of addiction, so let’s take a look at some statistics around addiction treatment.

Treatment and Recovery

It’s not always easy to admit you have a problem and need help. In fact, in 2018, almost 19 million Americans from ages 12 and up required substance abuse treatment from a drug rehab facility.

However, even with treatment, recovery is not always guaranteed. From that 19 million, only 964,000 people acknowledged they needed treatment; however, a mere 159,000 went on to receive treatment.

Looking for Rehab Centers in Tennessee?

The statistics we’ve discussed are staggering and serve as a strong reminder that drug addiction affects not only you but those around you.

If you’re seeking recovery, at Apex Recovery Rehab in California, we treat detoxification, trauma recovery, addiction and alcohol rehab, and co-occurring disorders.

With both residential and outpatient programs, we suit a range of requirements so that you have a greater chance of success with one of the best rehab centers in Tennessee. 

Reach out for help today and contact us to begin your recovery journey. We believe in you.

Call Our Toll-Free Hotline 24/7 at 877.881.2689