The Top 10 Cities With The Worst Drug Problems

The Top 10 Cities With The Worst Drug Problems

According to the latest statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 10.6 percent of the people in the United States over 12 years old have used an illicit drug in the past month (2016). Despite numerous campaigns to educate and address drug abuse, the problem seems to be worsening. In 2017, over 72,000 drug overdose deaths have been reported in the country, which is almost 6,600 more than the number in 2016.  Below are the 10 cities in the U.S. currently faced with the worst drug issues:

10. Baltimore, Maryland

Number 10 of the cities with the worst drug problems is Baltimore, Md. Baltimore is the largest city in the state of Maryland with a population of over 600,000, 21.9% of whom are living in poverty. Apart from the challenges of poverty and unemployment, the city is now faced with a serious substance use problem. In 2000, Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley already called the drug addiction issue as “The crisis that’s killing our city.” In 2017, his statement became a glaring reality as 761 people in the city died from drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths.

From the many types of drugs, heroin and suboxone is the primary substance of abuse in Baltimore as it is estimated that 1 out of 10 of the population is addicted to heroin. Dubbed as the “U.S. Heroin Capital” by ABC News, Baltimore’s heroin problem is so rampant that the federal government declared the city as High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

9. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago ranks third in terms of population in the U.S. with over 2.7 million residents and 9th on our list of cities with worst drug problems. Most of the people in the city are employed in transportation, tech services, and management companies but the poverty rate is still higher than the national rate at 19.1%.

Drug abuse and is a serious problem in Chicago as it is the number one city in the U.S. in terms of emergency room visits because of heroin use. It is also estimated that around 1, 425 people died from overdose deaths in the city and authorities are speculating that the numbers are most likely higher. “Heroin overdose deaths were underreported previously, and they could be under-reported right now,” says Melaney Arnold from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most abused drugs in Chicago are heroin, cocaine, prescription opioids, methamphetamine, and marijuana. Most of the drugs in the city, particularly heroin, comes from Colombia and Mexico and is controlled and distributed locally by Mexican cartels.

8. Washington, D.C

Washington, D.C is one of the most popular cities in the world and home to more than 680,000 people. While the majority of those employed primarily work in public administration as well as professional and scientific services, 18.6% of the population are still living below the poverty line. Washington is known as the capital of the U.S., but it is also gaining a reputation as a capital city in terms of drug problems.

Records show that there were 209 opioid-related overdose deaths in Washington, D.C. in 2016, one of the highest in the country. Some of the most commonly abused drugs in Washington D.C. include cocaine, halcion, heroin, MDMA/Ecstasy, methamphetamine, and phencyclidine (PCP). Drug-related arrests in the city commonly involved cocaine, PCP, and marijuana.

7. Espanola, New Mexico

Espanola is home to about 10,000 people, 32.1% of whom live in poverty. The population of Espanola may be small, but its drug use problem is surprisingly high. This is evident in the battle cry of, which says: “What else will it take to unite and put a stop to the drug addiction epidemic once and for all?” The city has figured prominently in terms of death due to a drug overdose with 42.5 deaths for every 100,000.

Note that the national average of drug-related deaths is at 7.3 per 100,000 only. Heroin is the primary substance use disorderd by residents of the city and the leading drug people are arrested for along with methamphetamines. Heroin use is so prevalent that even teenagers are not spared. One study showed that nearly 5% of high school students in Espanola have experienced using heroin in the last month. This may be a small city but it is indeed one of the 10 U.S. cities with worst drug problems.

6. Missoula, Montana

6th on our list of cities with worst drug problems is Missoula.  A city in Montana with a population of over 70,000. While several residents are working in agriculture, forestry, educational services, and other industries, 19.3% of the population are still living in poverty. Missoula, just like the rest of Montana is plagued with drug problems, particularly methamphetamine. Note that 50% of adults in the state are held in prison for methamphetamine-related crimes.

Apart from methamphetamine, crack cocaine and marijuana are also contributing to the drug problem in Missoula as these substances are not only abused but are also causing numerous crimes such as drug sales and thefts. “It’s (the drug problem) pervasive in terms of how it affects all of our department,” says Lt. Steve Brester of the Missoula Police Department.

5. Dayton, Ohio

Dayton is the 6th largest city in Ohio but number 1 in Ohio as far as cities with worst drug problems. and is home to more than 140,000 people. The economy of the city is focused on industries related to accommodations and food service, manufacturing, and healthcare. Dayton suffers from a high poverty rate at 34.5% and a serious drug use problem.

According to the record of accidental drug overdose fatalities reported by the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, Dayton accounts for almost 50 percent of the total number of drug overdose death among the cities and townships of Montgomery County in 2017 with 282 recorded deaths. “While the death rate is falling in the older age range, it is rising in the younger age range tied to the opioid stuff,” says Director Richard Stock of the University of Dayton.

Most commonly abused drugs causing fatalities in the city include opioids, heroin, darvon, cocaine, and fentanyl. It is important to note that most drug-related arrests also involved the said substances.

4. Detroit, Michigan

Detroit is the largest city in the state of Michigan and home to more than 670,000 people, 35.7% of whom are living in poverty. The city’s economy specializes in manufacturing, administration, and waste management services. With its struggling economy, high rate of poverty and crime, it is not surprising that Detroit is also plagued with drug issues. In Metro Detroit, the number of drug overdose deaths are rising, primarily because of the appearance of Fentanyl, which contributes to the 56% rise in drug overdose fatalities from 2015 to 2016.

Substances of choice for residents of Detroit appear to be heroin (often mixed with fentanyl), artificial opioid, and prescription drugs and synthetic marijuana oftentimes referred to as spice. The most commonly reported drugs to authorities include cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl. While authorities are trying to take necessary action, Warren Mayor James Fouts reminded police officers that drug users should not be treated like criminals. “We need to get them to help themselves clean up and to lead productive lives,” he added.

3. Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky with a population of more than 770,000 and with that comes it’s largest cities with worst drug problems. Considering its location, the city’s economy is centered on businesses related to cargo and shipping. Improving the lives of 17.4 percent of families living in poverty is not the sole focus of the city but combating its worsening drug crisis as well. The number of fatalities due to a drug overdose in Louisville is 43 deaths for every 100,000 people, which is more than twice the national rate for overdose fatality. Metro Emergency Services also recorded 52 overdose-related emergency calls in just thirty-two hours. Given the extent of the problem,

Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher told his constituents that, “We are living through the biggest drug epidemic in American history.” The most commonly abused drugs in Louisville causing a spike in fatalities include heroin, librium, cocaine, opioid, and benzodiazepines. Police officers are also noticing a surge in charges related to possession of methamphetamine in the city more than the number of heroin and opiates combined.

2. Wilmington, North Carolina

Wilmington is a city located in the coastal southeastern North Carolina with a population of over 100,000. The economy of Wilmington specializes in accommodations and food service as well as rental and leasing because of its nearness to the ocean. While many are employed, the poverty rate in the city is still high at 22.9%. From among the many areas in North Carolina, Wilmington has been reported to be one of the cities with the highest opioid abusers. Apparently, 11.6% of the residents of the port city tend to abuse prescription drugs and that almost 54% of all opioid prescription drugs in Wilmington are being abused.

The numbers are not surprising, given that more than 700 million prescription pills handed out by doctors in North Carolina in 2016 alone. NC Attorney General said: “We need to stop creating addicts,” during a roundtable discussion aimed at finding a solution to the opioid abuse in the state.

1. Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati is a city of more than 290,000 people, 26 percent of whom are living in poverty. The city’s economy is centered on industries related to healthcare and social assistance as well as retail trade, among others.  Cincinnati is currently plagued with a high record of drug overdose death, particularly with the entry of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs in the market. For instance, in just six days, 174 people in Cincinnati have overdosed in 2016 after using heroin cut with carfentanil, an analog of opioid analgesic fentanyl.

According to the Cincinnati Health Department, drug overdose deaths due to opioid has increased by a staggering 1,000% in the past five years. Apparently, an increasing number of drug users are mixing synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil to common street drugs like cocaine. Federal narcotics agents are observing flooding of non-prescription fentanyl, that are made in laboratories outside the U.S., in the market. “The introduction of synthetic opiates like fentanyl has killed tens of thousands of Americans and should be seen as the country’s most pressing health, a national security issue, and social crisis we face right now,” Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan said.

Helping Cities With Worst Drug Problems

There is hope if you live in one of the top cities with worst drug problems in the U.S. You can find sober support groups in every one of these towns in the forms of Narcotics Anonymous and others. Also drug rehabs in the state that are funded by tax money can help anyone who is looking for help. There are also private rehab centers that are available to help people get the most effective treatment for their addictions. Help can also be found in the community through organizations that provide resources for people who want to get off of drugs for good. There are safe places for people to go when they are feeling like they wanting to use. And many times police are willing to help and talk to people who come to the station, addicts do not have to fear being arrested for this. If you live in one of the cities with worst drug problems in the U.S. just know that drug addiction help is available to you.

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Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance use disorder, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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