8 U.S. Cities With The Highest Rates Of Drug Abuse

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Opioid addiction and other substance use disorders are impacting some of America’s major cities, inflating drug-related crime and poverty rates.

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Drug addiction affects many of our major cities. The national increase in drug overdose deaths is reflected in many major cities.

While some cities are trying to use settlement funds from lawsuits with prescription drug companies to make treatment accessible, others are still battling severe rates of drug abuse.

Indicators For Rates Of Drug Abuse

It is difficult to determine exactly how many people are facing substance use disorders, so consider leading indicators when evaluating a city’s rate of drug abuse.

Drug Overdose Deaths

One of the top indicators of a city’s rate of drug abuse is drug overdose deaths. This information will often include the number of deaths from opioids such as heroin and stimulants like cocaine.

Drug-Related Emergency Room Visits

Fatal and non-fatal drug overdose rates both indicate how a city is doing with controlling substance abuse.

Some cities and counties keep track of emergency room visits to monitor both types of overdoses.

Opioid Overdose Rates

As mentioned before, opioid overdose rates are another key indicator of drug abuse.

With the national opioid epidemic showing no signs of abating, key cities reveal how the epidemic is affecting their residents through city-wide opioid overdose rates.

Drug-Related Crime

Drug-related crime often accompanies high drug abuse rates. This can include burglaries, prostitution, and other crimes that can be used to obtain money to pay for drugs.

U.S. Cities With The Highest Rates Of Drug Abuse

This list gathers some U.S. cities with the highest rates of drug abuse in America.

This list is not comprehensive. Neither are the cities rated. It is just a sampling of cities in America that have been the hardest hit.

Mesa, Arizona

Mesa, AZ, is part of the Phoenix metro area in Maricopa County. At around 500,000 people, Mesa is the third largest city in the state.

It has a poverty rate of less than 9%, but nearby Phoenix, with more than triple the population, has a poverty rate of 18%.

In Maricopa County, total drug overdose rates in 2021 were almost 38 people per 100,000 residents. Opioid overdose rates were almost 29 per 100,000.

In 2022, the city of Mesa reports that it experienced an average of 152 opioid overdose incidents per month.

While 2023 is demonstrating a downward trend, it is too early to tell where the city will end up.

Portland, Oregon

With a poverty rate of over 12% the most populated city in Oregon has been experiencing high drug abuse rates and overdose fatalities.

In the first half of 2022, police responded to 238 fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses, an 84% increase over the same periods of the previous two years.

Police also responded to 28 fatal overdoses, a number already five more than the total for the previous year.

As of January 2022, Multnomah County reported 5,228 unhoused people in the Portland metro area and drug overdose deaths are taking a toll on this community.

In 2021 about 122 unhoused people died by overdose, mostly from polysubstance use of methamphetamine and fentanyl.

Denver, Colorado

As Colorado’s capital and most populated city, Denver has become a focal point for drug-related issues, including those related to marijuana.

A study published in 2018, showed that the number of emergency room visits for a mental health crisis where marijuana use was present was five times greater than mental health crisis visits where marijuana wasn’t present.

Denver, Colorado has also been experiencing a surge in overdose deaths connected to fentanyl. Between 2019 and 2021, opioid-related deaths increased by 308% ending with a total of 473 deaths in 2021.

Drug-related crimes are climbing back up in Denver after marked lows between 2020 and 2022.

In 2019, Denver was seeing highs of 500 incidents a month. Incidents seem to be rising again with March 2023 having almost 100 more than the previous month.

Houston, Texas

Throughout the state, Texans have been grappling with the surge of overdose deaths due to fentanyl-laced drugs, especially among teens who engage in substance use.

Houston sees the most opioid-related emergency room visits of all major cities in Texas. In 2021 there were over 1,500 ER visits due to opioids. Fort Worth is a distant second at 954 visits

Houston, TX also experiences a high degree of drug-related crime, putting it below the 20th percentile mark for cities in the U.S.

Louisville, Kentucky

The Louisville metro area makes up the largest city/area in Kentucky at about 630,000 people with a poverty level of about 15%.

In 2021, 2,250 residents of Kentucky died from drug overdoses. Of those, 620, or almost 28%, were recorded in Jefferson County.

As of the last week in 2022, there were 516 overdose deaths with 100 cases still waiting to be decided on.

Louisville joined other cities in suing drug companies for the unmonitored influx of opioids. The settlement awarded Louisville almost $32 million, which the city plans to use for opioid-related services.

Espanola, New Mexico

In a town of only 10,000 people situated in northern New Mexico, drug-related crime is high, and the poverty level is almost 20%.

For the population, overdose death rates are high. They are calculated for Rio Arriba County, of which Espanola is the most populous city.

In Rio Arriba county, overdose deaths averaged about 90 per 100,000 residents. From June 2021 to June 2022, the overdose death rate was almost 124 people per 100,000 residents.

Chicago, Illinois

Homicides are dropping in the Windy City, but opioid overdose death rates have been climbing.

In 2021, almost 2,000 people died from opioid overdoses, a number which dropped to about 1,600 in 2022 according to the preliminary numbers.

A new study by the University of Illinois, Chicago claims that opioid deaths in Cook County have been undercounted by as much as 15% because they do not include anyone over 50 with malignant cancer.

Drug-related crime in Chicago, Illinois is high with 24,000 arrests for drug-related crimes in 2019 alone.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati is the third largest city in Ohio with a poverty rate of almost one-quarter of the city’s population.

Hamilton County recorded 433 overdose deaths in 2022. Of those deaths, 288 were attributed to fentanyl with 50 of those fentanyl overdoses also involving an animal sedative called xylazine.

The county also found 3.209 items that had fentanyl with 61% having xylazine.

Find Addiction Treatment Today

While drug trends in many major cities are going up, you do not have to be a statistic.

You or a loved one can find addiction treatment today. Call DetoxRehabs.net to learn more about your treatment options.

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