Heroin Use by State: Which States Use Heroin the Most?

Medically Reviewed

70,237 – that is the number of overdose deaths that occurred in the United States in 2017. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that figure rose 9.6 percent from the year before.

Opioids are the primary driver of drug overdose deaths. In 2017, they were responsible for 47,600 overdose deaths, which translates to 67.8 percent of all drug overdose deaths. Unfortunately, these numbers continue to skyrocket even though doctors are seeking an alternative to opioids for pain management. Still, there are an estimated 192 drug overdose deaths every day.

In 2017, a Few States Registered the Highest Number of Drug Overdoses. They Are:

  • West Virginia (57.8 per 100,000)
  • Pennsylvania (44.3 per 100,000)
  • Ohio (46.3 per 100,000)
  • Kentucky (37.2 per 100,000); and
  • District of Columbia (44.0 per 100,000).

Other states with significant increases in overdose death rates from 2016 to 2017 include: Arizona, Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The opioid epidemic is a severe public health crisis that also has a ripple effect on those who don’t even use the substances. It all started in the 1990s when pharmaceutical companies reassured doctors that their patients would not become addicted to the pain reliever medications. Some doctors at that time began prescribing them at a much higher rate.

Once that theory was debunked, and the government saw how addictive the drugs were, it implemented restrictions on what could be prescribed, which forced people who used the drugs to get their fix elsewhere. When prescription pill prices skyrocketed on the black market, users turned to heroin, a much more potent opioid for half the cost.

It wasn’t until 2017 when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency and announced its 5-Point Strategy to Combat the Opioid Crisis. Unfortunately, it may have been too little too late.

Which States Use the Most Heroin?

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 948,000 Americans admitted to using heroin in 2016. The number has risen significantly since 2007, and the trend appears to be primarily driven by young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

The number of individuals using heroin for the first time is also high — 170,000 individuals admitted to using heroin for the first time in 2016, which is double the number of people in 2006 (90,000).

The Most Recent Statistics Point to these States with the Biggest Increase in Heroin Use in No Particular Order:

  • California
  • Virginia
  • Illinois
  • District of Columbia

While heroin use is rampant throughout the United States, the above-listed states showed the most significant increase from 2016-2017. These numbers do not reflect the increase in other opioids, such as fentanyl or prescription opioids.

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