States Experience Substantial Disparities In Substance Abuse Problems

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A new report providing state-by-state analyses of substance abuse and mental illness patterns reveals that there are wide variations in the levels of problems like illicit drug use found among the states, but that every state suffers from these problems. For example, among those aged 12 and older, Iowa had less than half the current illicit drug use rate of Rhode Island (5.2 percent vs. 12.5 percent) – yet Iowa’s population aged 12 and older also had one of the nation’s highest levels of people experiencing alcohol dependence or abuse in the past year (9.2 percent).

Among the report’s other notable findings:

• Vermont had the nation’s highest incidence rate of marijuana use among people aged 12 and older (2.5 percent) while Utah had the lowest (1.6) percent.

• The District of Columbia had the nation’s highest rate of past year cocaine use among those aged 12 and older (5.1 percent) while Mississippi had the lowest (1.6 percent).


• Utah had the nation’s lowest rate of current underage drinking (17.3 percent) while North Dakota had the highest (40 percent).

• Tennessee had the nation’s highest rate of people aged 18 and older experiencing a major depressive episode in the past year (9.8 percent) while Hawaii had the lowest (5.0 percent).

The report was developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) based on the 2006 and 2007 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Using data drawn from interviews with 135,672 persons from throughout the country the report provides a state-by-state breakdown along 23 different measures of substance abuse and mental health problems including illicit drug use, binge drinking, alcohol and illicit drug dependence, tobacco use, serious psychological distress and major depressive episodes.

“This report shows that while every state faces its own unique pattern of public health problems – these problems confront every state,” said SAMHSA Acting Administrator, Eric Broderick, D.D.S., M.P.H. “By highlighting the exact nature and scope of the problems in each state we can help state public health authorities better determine the most effective ways of addressing them.”

The report also provides valuable data on the changes occurring within each of the states during the time since the last report (drawn from the 2005 and 2006 NSDUH surveys). For example, the report shows the rate of current tobacco use in Colorado rose from 26.5 percent to 29.8 percent during this period.