D.C. Tops Nation in Drug Abuse

Drug problems abound in the U.S., most prominently in the District of Columbia, according to a new WalletHub report.

The analysis comes amid the nation’s opioid epidemic, an issue that WalletHub experts said President Donald Trump’s administration has seemingly approached paradoxically.

While the president has launched a commission for studying the opioid epidemic, his administration has suggested slashing 95 percent of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s budget and labeling addiction a pre-existing condition, WalletHub said.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that people admitting to illicit drug use shot up from 31.3 percent in 1979 to 48.8 percent in 2015.

WalletHub’s analysis examined all 50 U.S. states and the District across three categories: drug use and addiction, law enforcement, and drug health issues and rehab. The analysis also took into account the percentage of adults who needed but didn’t receive treatment for illicit drug use in the last year, as well as statistics on the number of treatment facilities and admissions to those facilities.

The places with the highest percentage of teenage drug users were Colorado, D.C., Vermont, Oregon and Rhode Island.

Comparatively, states with the lowest percentage of drug users were Nebraska, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa.

Most people who died from an overdose, per capita, died in West Virginia, followed by New Hampshire, a Kentucky-Ohio tie and Rhode Island. The states with the fewest overdose deaths were Iowa, Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

“It has been established that increases in use of prescribed pharmaceutical opioids led to increases in diversion and illicit use of these medications which contributed to greater number of people becoming addicted to opioids and transitioning to heroin use,” said Raminta Daniulaityte, a Wallet Hub expert and associate professor and associate director of the Center for Interventions, Treatment and Addictions Research in the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University.

“Over the past five to seven years or so, there have been serious attempts among medical providers to implement policies and procedures that would help reduce diversion of pharmaceutical opioids,” Daniulaityte said. “In many cases, these changes helped reduce diversion.”

However, reduced street access to pain pills might have pushed even more individuals toward illicit opioids such as heroin because, at the time, insufficient attention was devoted to demand reduction in terms of providing easier access to substance abuse treatment services, she said.

Some of the most effective measures state and local authorities can take to combat the opioid epidemic include protecting access to care and parity for mental health and substance use disorders, said Hilary S. Connery, a fellow WalletHub expert and clinical director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Program at McLean Hospital.

Connery, who also serves as an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said maintaining mental health and substance use disorders as essential health benefits and building treatment infrastructure while also reimbursing for evidence-based medications and therapies also count as effective ways to combat the opioid epidemic.

She also included childhood screening and referral for further assessment when positive as another measure.

“Prevention lies in screening and early intervention,” Connery said. “Law enforcement efforts; drug trafficking and data surveillance, thoughtful opioid and sedative prescribing, and enhancing education and financial security within communities.”

While D.C. had the biggest drug problem, the states that border the nation’s capital, Maryland and Virginia, ranked lower. Maryland ranked 18th and Virginia 41st.

“The first thing I would do if I ascertained that a loved one was using opiates would be to get myself and that individual trained to administer naloxone [medication used to combat overdoses] and make sure that was in my medicine cabinet,” said Nancy D. Campbell, a professor of science and technology studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“Then I would work on readying that person for treatment,” she said. “There is no one form of drug treatment that fits all. Most people have to go through treatment multiple times.”

To view the complete study results, visit

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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