Skip to main content

The States With the Biggest Drug Problems in 2020

States are scored and ranked based on arrest and overdose rates, number of opioid prescriptions, employee drug testing laws and a range of other factors.

Before the coronavirus came along, there was another epidemic that was, and is still, ravaging the country. Widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids is a public health emergency in the U.S., and opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 deaths in 2016, more than any previous year on record, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. An estimated 40% of opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid.

To determine which U.S. states have the biggest drug problems, personal finance site WalletHub collected data from a variety of sources and compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia in three categories: drug use and addiction, law enforcement, and drug health issues and rehab.

Those categories include metrics such as arrest and overdose rates, opioid prescriptions, employee drug testing laws, and a range of others. Each state was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the biggest drug problem. Each state was then given a score based on the metrics, leading to Missouri being ranked as No. 1 -- meaning the state has the biggest drug problem. The states with the smallest drug problems were Minnesota and Hawaii.

The drug use and addiction category includes things like the share of teens and adults who had used illicit drugs in the past month, opioid prescriptions per 100 people, the share of children who lived with someone with a drug or alcohol problem, and overdose deaths per capita. 

Based on WalletHub’s study, these are the states with the biggest drug problems: