Opioid abuse and overdose numbers have reached epidemic levels throughout the United States — over 90 people die every day due to opioid overdose. It's not just illicit substances causing this problem, as prescription painkillers have also lead to fatalities.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) published opioid-involved overdose death rates summarized by state to figure out which states have been hit hardest by the opioid crisis. These numbers are based on age-adjusted rates per 100,000 individuals, allowing researchers to compare states with variable populations more accurately. For example, states such as California have some of the highest numbers of overdose-related deaths because the state has a larger population. However, California ranks 36th overall when compared with other states' opioid death rates.
The U.S. opioid epidemic began in the 1990s, which marked a significant increase in opioid prescriptions and overdoses. More pharmaceutical companies began pushing for opioid prescriptions, and they claimed that the risk for addiction was low.
Over time, people began misusing prescription and nonprescription opioids, leading to a high number of addictions and deaths. Between 1999 and 2019, nearly 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses, including prescription and nonprescription opioids. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public emergency to combat the opioid crisis.
When people become addicted to opioids, they might not have a consistent flow of prescriptions from a doctor. This can cause them to look for nonprescription opioids, like fentanyl, which was responsible for 36,000 deaths in 2019 alone. What begins as a controlled prescription from the doctor can lead to addiction.
Anyone can become addicted to opioids, but some groups have a higher risk based on these factors:
Below are the top 10 states with the worst opioid problems based on the information published by the NIH for 2018.
While West Virginia has a relatively low population, it tops the list with the most opioid-related deaths. The age-adjusted opioid overdose death rate for West Virginia is 42.4 per 100,000 people. This equals over 700 overdose deaths per year.
This East Coast state has an opioid overdose death rate of 33.7 per 100,000 individuals. Of the 6.046 million residents, 2,087 people died from an opioid overdose in 2018.
While New Hampshire is known for its small communities spread throughout the state, the opioid epidemic has hit this state hard. The opioid overdose death rate is 33.1 per 100,000 individuals, and last year, drug overdose deaths involving opioids totaled 412.
A variety of factors have contributed to Ohio's opioid crisis. Sadly, their opioid-related death rate sits at 29.6 per 100,000 people. This means of the 11.69 million people who live in the state, 3,237 have overdosed and died from opioids.
Compared to other New England states, Massachusetts has the highest population, with 6.893 million residents. The opioid epidemic has brought devastation, with an opioid overdose death rate of 29.3 per 100,000 individuals. That's a total of 1,991 deaths.
While not technically a state, the capital city of the United States is home to more people than some states. One hundred ninety-one people died from an opioid-related overdose in 2018. That's a death rate of 26.7 per 100,000 people.
The United States' northernmost state on the eastern seaboard also struggles with an opioid death rate of 23.4 per 100,000 people. Out of a population of 1.344 million, there were 202 opioid-related deaths in 2018.
Some states have created legislation to help people with opioid addictions. Some strategies include increasing prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), regulating pain clinics and promoting overdose awareness.
Four states with helpful opioid legislation include:
Help can look different for each individual with opioid addiction. At Diamond House Detox, we help clients break free from addiction with evidence-based treatment. If you are ready to take steps toward sobriety, we will give you the support you need.
Our team will help you decide which rehab option is best for your lifestyle. We offer the following programs and more:
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to prescription or illicit opioids, don't wait. The team at Diamond House Detox in northern California is here to help. Contact us today to learn more.
This article was medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP - BC, on June 1st, 2022