Last updated: January 30, 2023
It is no secret that alcohol and drug use can create an extensive, expensive problem in the workplace, resulting in absenteeism, fatality, injury, lost productivity, low workplace morale, and theft. Adding insult to injury, business owners must often pick up the additional costs associated with health care and workers’ comp.
Specifically as it relates to drug use, statistics surrounding the opiate crisis and resulting opiate abuse are staggering. In 2016, according to The Economist, more Americans lost their lives from drug overdose than car crash, and opiate addiction was a leading factor.
Because the opiate crisis—as well as the legalization of marijuana in certain states—has resulted in unusual and alarming trends for a developed country, new DOT drug testing regulations went into effect earlier this year to fight drug abuse. Specifically, a new DOT rule went into effect on January 1, adding the following 4 specific semi-synthetic opioids to the testing panel: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone.
Bottom line: The opiate epidemic is wreaking havoc across America and must be taken seriously by employers, hiring managers, and HR professionals. Let’s take a look at which states are most vulnerable—here are the 9 US states with the highest drug use:
1. District of Columbia
Based on arrest statistics, overdose rates, meth-lab incidents, and opioid prescriptions, The District of Columbia was rated as the worst place for drug use in the United States. This is ironic considering D.C. makes policies related to drug use all over the country. Note: The District of Columbia has long been at the center of illegal drug use and abuse statistics.
According to Kristina Hannon, vice president of behavioral science for the social service organization Family Guidance, “We have seen an increase in substance use in the last five years in Northwest Missouri. Last year we treated over 2,000 individuals who have a substance abuse disorder in nine counties, so we see that it’s increasing pretty significantly.” Surprisingly, perhaps, the statistics change significantly with a quick trip across the Missouri River to Kansas which remains on the opposite end of the drug problem spectrum.
3. New Hampshire
As it pertains to statistics surrounding people who died, per capita, from drug overdose, New Hampshire ranked number two on the list, only after West Virginia.
Unfortunately, Michigan moved up in the rankings 6 spots from 10th a year ago to 4th now.
5. West Virginia
In addition to ranking number 1 for number of drug overdose deaths, per capita, West Virginia also ranked number one for drug arrests on college campuses per 1,000 students. They ranked number 8 for opioid pain reliever prescriptions, per capita, and number 11 for the number of teenagers offered, sold, or given illegal drugs while on school property.
6. New Mexico
Interesting to note: While New Mexico ranks #6 on the list for states with the highest drug use, it also ranks last in terms of the number of people receiving substance abuse treatment, per 100,000 drug users. Meaning few are getting help for it.
The Indianapolis Star reports that the Indiana police are overwhelmed by the number of drug cases, which may contribute to the state’s high ranking.
8. Rhode Island
Studies indicate that Rhode Island has a high percentage of drug users, both teens as well as adults. Ironically, perhaps, it also ranked as one of the states with the fewest drug-related arrests.
Fentanyl and methamphetamines are listed as the largest emerging drug threat for Kentucky. Specifically, the amount of meth produced locally in the state is now eclipsing what can be produced in Mexico. And because it is grown locally, it is more readily available to meth users in the state.
Drug abuse not only affects individuals and families throughout the United States, but it also affects the workforce in a serious way. As many as 70% of the estimated 14.8 million Americans who currently use illegal drugs are employed. Together we must work to find solutions that will put an end to the crisis.