These States Have the Most Opioid Abuse in America

Even if you don’t pay too much attention to the news, you probably know that opioid abuse and addiction are out of control in the United States.

boyfriend and girlfriend shooting up with heroin syringe

Heroin is just part of the opioid crisis in the United States. | diego_cervo/iStock/Getty Images

What once might have been the drug of choice for hardcore addicts is all too common these days, unfortunately. Tom Petty had the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl in his system when he died in 2017. Prince and Elvis Presley are two other musicians whose drug abuse contributed to their early deaths. What we’re trying to tell you is, opioid abuse is a major problem, and everyone is affected.

The U.S. states dealing with the most opioid abuse

The best way to see which states have the worst opioid problems is to look at the rates of overdose deaths. The Centers for Disease Control tracks that information, and it’s not good news.

Nearly every state in the U.S. saw its overdose death rate increase between 2010 and 2016, and often the jump was significant. The only states that saw a decrease were Oregon, Montana, and Nebraska.

These 11 states had the highest opioid overdose death rates per capita (100,000 people):

11. Maine

Portland Head Lighthouse in Fort Williams park

Maine is one of several New England states with an opioid problem. | krblokhin/iStock/Getty Images

Overdose rate: 28.7

Maine’s overdose death rate nearly tripled between 2010 and 2016, and that’s not even the worst part about its opioid abuse. Opioids were responsible for four out of five overdose deaths in 2015, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

10. Rhode Island

Overdose rate: 30.8

Rhode Island’s overdose rate doubled from 2010 to 2016, and there’s one major reason for it. Cheap heroin from South America is easy to get, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center, which is attractive to younger users.

9. Delaware

Overdose rate: 30.8

Wilmington is the epicenter of the problem in Delaware, which saw its overdose rate jump from 16.6 in 2010 to 30.8 in 2016.

8. Massachusetts

Opioid addiction hits every demographic. | John Moore/Getty Images

Overdose rate: 33.0

A surplus of fentanyl in Massachusetts is one reason its overdose rate tripled in just six years. Pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl is rampant, but criminals groups make their own, and that’s why opioid abuse is out of control.

7. Maryland

Overdose rate: 33.2

Seeing Maryland show up proves that opioid abuse transcends class. One of every 12 households have at least $1 million in assets, yet the state more than tripled its overdose death rate in just six years.

6. Kentucky

Overdose rate: 33.5

Opioid abuse isn’t the only problem in the Bluegrass state. The fact that 40% of the state’s counties don’t sell alcohol is driving methamphetamine use. Kentucky had one of the worst overdose death rates in 2010 (23.60), and it was still bad in 2016, the last time the CDC examined the data.

5. Pennsylvania

Overdose rate: 37.9

Any way you look at it, Pennsylvania has an opioid abuse problem. Its rate is one of the highest in America, and so is the number of 2016 drug deaths (4,627).

4. Washington, D.C.

Washington DC, USA skyline

Washington’s overdose death rate nearly tripled in six years. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

Overdose rate: 38.8

The nation’s capital isn’t exempt from opioid abuse issues. The death rate in D.C. nearly tripled between 2010 and 2016, from 12.9 to 38.8.

3. New Hampshire

Overdose rate: 39.0

Opioid abuse has hit New England hard, and that includes New Hampshire. It’s so bad that firefighters are fighting overdoses more often than fires, according to U.S. News & World Report.

2. Ohio

Overdose rate: 39.1

Ohio has one of the highest drug addiction rates in America, according to a WalletHub study, so it’s not surprising to see it show up here. Its rate is No. 2 overall, and its number of overdose deaths (4,329) is No. 4.

1. West Virginia

Overdose rate: 52.0

An already serious opioid abuse problem got even worse for West Virginia. Its 28.9 per capita overdose death rate in 2010 was substantially higher than No. 2 Kentucky, and as we can see, its 2016 rate is well ahead of the pack yet again.

How bad is the opioid problem in America?

Opioid epidemic

There are as many opioid overdose deaths as kidney disease deaths in the U.S. | Stas_V/Getty Images

Except for a few places, every state in the U.S. is dealing with opioid abuse. If the numbers we just discussed don’t illustrate how bad it is, then consider the following:

  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates there were 72,306 drug overdose deaths in 2017. That’s only about 7,000 less than the number of diabetes deaths.
  • Looking only at the number of opioid deaths is shocking. The NIDA data shows 49,068 deaths, 4.1 times more than in 2002. That’s almost the same amount of people who died from kidney disease, according to CDC data.