States with the Highest Abuse of Prescription Drugs

usa map with stethoscope

By Cristina Utti M.F.A., M.A.

In the past decade, there has been a dramatic rise in the use and abuse of prescription medications.

The rate of prescriptions written varies from state to state. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the southern states have some of the highest numbers of written prescriptions. The CDC reported that in 2012 there were 259 million prescriptions written for opioid pain killers in the United States. That was enough for every adult in the country to have a bottle of pills, and this number does not even include those prescriptions written for benzodiazepines and stimulant medications.

The state of Alabama had the highest rate of prescription pain medications, with providers in that state writing 143 prescriptions per every hundred people. Hawaii was the state with the lowest rate, which was 52 for every 100 people.

The states with the highest prescription rates for painkillers were Alabama, West Virginia, and Tennessee. In the northeast, New Hampshire and Maine had the highest rates for long-acting/extended-release and high-dose painkillers.

Data compiled by the National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health has come up with this list of the most addicted states:

  1. Nevada – Nevada has the highest rate of treatment admissions for methamphetamine abuse, with Carson City and Las Vegas having the highest concentration of users.
  2. Maryland – Baltimore, Maryland ranks top for the most people addicted to heroin, having the highest number of people admitted for treatment in the country.
  3. Massachusetts – Massachusetts ranks high in the opiate epidemic. Overdose deaths are up 47% since 1999. Alcohol abuse rates are also higher in Massachusetts than most of the other New England states and in the country as a whole.
  4. New Mexico – The drug overdose rate in New Mexico is almost double the average in the country. The culprit is opioid prescription medications.
  5. Montana – In Montana, methamphetamine abuse accounts for 50% of all incarcerations.
  6. Rhode Island – Although Rhode Island is the smallest state in the country, it has one of the highest rates of heroin addiction. Not only has treatment for heroin addiction risen 40% in the past six to seven years, but the state also has the highest rate of illicit drug use, ranking in at 12.8%.
  7. Vermont – Vermont has had a 40% increase in individuals seeking treatment for opioid and heroin abuse.

There is not a state in our country that has not been affected by the ever-rising rates of addiction and overdose. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims that states need to get serious about the prescription drug abuse epidemic. Steps they can take are:

  • Tighten regulation of pain clinics.
  • Improve use of prescription drug monitoring programs. These programs help identify doctors and pharmacies that are prescribing more medications than necessary.
  • Increase public access to substance abuse treatment programs.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug dependency or addiction, do not hesitate to contact us now at 806.307.2003.


Painter, K. (2014, July 01). Painkiller prescription rates vary widely among states. Retrieved February, 2016.
Rettner, R. (2014, July 1). Southern States Have the Highest Painkiller Prescription Rates. Retrieved February, 2016.
Thompson, D. (2014, July 1). The states with the worst prescription painkiller problem. Retrieved February, 2016.