Special Report

States Using the Most Mind-Altering Drugs

4. Alabama
> Pct. of population using mind-altering drugs almost every day: 24.2%
> Median household income: $42,849 (4th lowest)
> Poor mental health days in past 30 days: 4.4 (4th highest)
> 2013 unemployment rate: 6.5% (18th lowest)

As in most states reporting frequent drug use, high levels of drug usage in Alabama is associated with negative socio-economic and health outcomes. Alabama had the fourth lowest median income in the country, almost $10,000 below the national median. The state’s 18.7% poverty rate in 2013 was fifth highest in the country and almost three percentage points above the national rate. About 40.3% of Alabama residents suffer from high blood pressure, the second highest rate of any state in the country. Also, the state’s obesity rate of 32.4% was eighth highest. Both conditions, while sometimes cited as outcomes of drug use, can also result in frequent drug use.The cancer death rate, at 211.5 per 100,000 residents, was also eighth highest in the country. The heart-disease related death rate of more than 329 per 100,000 residents was the second highest rate nationwide and considerably higher than the national rate of just over 251 per 100,000 Americans.

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3. Kentucky
> Pct. of population using mind-altering drugs almost every day: 24.5%
> Median household income: $43,399 (5th lowest)
> Poor mental health days in past 30 days: 4.5 (the highest)
> 2013 unemployment rate: 8.3% (7th highest)

Kentucky, with the third highest rate of frequent use of mind-altering drugs, had the fifth lowest median annual household income in the country in 2013 at $43,339, about $9,000 below the national median income. It also had the sixth highest poverty rate, 18.8%, and the fourth highest percentage of food stamp recipients, 17.4%. Together with the state’s 8.3% unemployment rate in 2013, Blue Grass State residents faced financial challenges which may partly explain why 41.2% of residents reported getting fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. The percentage of residents getting insufficient sleep was second only to Hawaii’s 41.5%. The state also had the highest rate of cancer deaths in the nation at 228.3 per 100,000 residents, perhaps a result of having the second highest rate of adult smokers. Smoking and the state’s 33.2% obesity rate — fifth highest in the country — could also have contributed to Kentucky’s relatively high rate of cardiovascular deaths at more than 297 per 100,000, eighth worst in the country.

2. Rhode Island
> Pct. of population using mind-altering drugs almost every day: 25.9%
> Median household income: $55,902 (18th highest)
> Poor mental health days in past 30 days: 3.8 (21st highest)
> 2013 unemployment rate: 9.5% (2nd highest)

Rhode Island is the only Northeastern state among the 10 states with the highest near daily mood-altering drug use. More than a quarter of residents reported such drug use. Although it had a 9.5% unemployment rate in 2013, second highest in the country, Rhode Island does not fit the general pattern of any of the other top 10 drug-use states in other ways. The state’s median annual household income was higher than the national median income, and it is the only state among the top 10 to have a lower poverty rate than the national rate. Unlike most states with the highest levels of drug usage, Rhode Island residents also do not report especially poor health outcomes. The state’s cancer death rate of 189.9 per 100,000 residents was inline with the national rate. The cardiovascular death rate of 229.1 per 100,000 was below the nation’s 251.4 deaths per 100,000 residents. The premature death rate before age 75 amounted to 6,049 years of potential life lost per 100,000 residents, below the national comparable rate of 6,976 years per 100,000.

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1. West Virginia
> Pct. of population using mind-altering drugs almost every day: 28.1%
> Median household income: $41,253 (3rd lowest)
> Poor mental health days in past 30 days: 4.4 (4th highest)
> 2013 unemployment rate: 6.5% (18th lowest)

West Virginia had the highest percentage of residents reporting near daily mood altering drug use at 28.5%, more than 2 percentage points higher than second ranking Rhode Island. The Mountaineer State faces some of the most difficult economic challenges in the nation. It had the third lowest median annual household income at $41,253, more than $10,000 below the national median. It also had one of the highest poverty rates at 18.5%, and the 10th highest percentage of food stamp recipients at 16.2%. West Virginians demonstrated a number of unhealthy habits, which, combined with the high rate of near daily drug use, could produce negative outcomes. The state, for example, had the highest smoking rate of any state at 27.3% of adults, much higher than the national 18.2% rate. Like many of the states with high rates of near daily drug use, West Virginia had a high obesity rate at 35.1%, matching Mississippi for worst in the nation. It also had the largest percentage of residents with high blood pressure at 41%. West Virginia also had the third highest cancer death rate and the sixth highest rate of cardiovascular deaths.

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