Oklahoma ranked No. 36 in ‘Biggest Drug Abuse’ study

When it comes to problems with illegal drugs, Oklahoma ranked No. 36 in a new national study by WalletHub.com.

The Trump Administration formed a commission to study the Opioid epidemic. WalletHub released a study on the States with the Biggest Drug Problems in 2017.

Oklahoma ranks No. 36 overall. Oklahoma is No. 36 in “drug use and addiction” and also No. 36 in “law enforcement rank.” Oklahoma ranks No. 39 in “drug health issues and rehabilitation.”

This study compares the 50 states and the District in terms of 15 key metrics, ranging from arrest and overdose rates to Opioid prescriptions and meth-lab incidents per capita. You can find some highlights below. Key Stats:

  • Alabama has 142.9 opioid pain reliever prescriptions for every 100 residents, leading the nation. On the other end of the spectrum, there are 52.0 opioid prescriptions for every 100 Hawaiians.
  • West Virginia has 42 drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 residents. That is six times more than Nebraska, which has the fewest overdose deaths, at 7 per 100,000 residents.
  • Colorado has the highest percentage of teens who used illicit drugs in the past month, at 14.58 percent. That is 2.5 times higher than in Iowa, which has the lowest rate (6.31 percent).
  • New Jersey has the highest percentage of teens who have been offered, sold or given an illegal drug on school property, at 30.70 percent. That is 2.6 times higher than in Iowa (11.90 percent), the state with the lowest rate.
  • Colorado has the highest percentage of adults who used illicit drugs in the past month, at 17.06 percent, topping South Dakota’s low (5.76 percent) by 2.8 times.
  • At 16.50 percent, the percentage of New Mexico teens who tried marijuana before age 13 is 4.3 times higher than in Utah (3.70 percent), where teens are least likely to do so.
  • Nearly 9 out of every 1,000 South Dakotans have been arrested for a drug violation, which is the country’s highest rate. Vermont, at the low end, has just over 1 drug arrest per 1,000 residents.
  • The District of Columbia has the highest percentage of adults who needed but didn’t receive treatment for illicit drug use in the past year, at 3.21 percent. That is 1.5 times higher than in Wyoming (1.83 percent), which has the lowest rate.

Drug abuse progressed from “a serious national threat” in 1969 to “public enemy No. 1” when President Richard Nixon declared war in 1971.  Since then, George H.W. Bush tried to take a “child by child” approach. His son subsequently admitted to cocaine use. Bill Clinton “experimented with marijuana a time or two” but “didn’t inhale.” Barack Obama “inhaled frequently” because “that was the point.” And from 2013 through 2016 alone, American taxpayers spent roughly $327 billion on drug-control efforts.

President Trump says he’s never done drugs, but America as a whole can’t seem to quit. The number of people who admit to ever using an illicit drug actually rose from 1979 (31.3 percent) to 2015 (48.8 percent), according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Annual overdose deaths have more than tripled from 2000 (17,415) to 2015 (52,404). And over 11 times more people were in prisons and jails for drug offenses in 2015 (469,545) than in 1980 (40,900), according to The Sentencing Project.

Why is opiod abuse so prevalent?

“We have seen a steady increase in opioid drug use — of both legal and illegal varieties — since the 1990s,” said Nancy D. Campbell,  professor of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

”However, the U.S. public has long had a voracious appetite for opioids. We consume approximately 80 percent of the world’s supply of them. In the 1980s, after Direct-to-Consumer Advertising was first allowed, there was an immediate problem with overdoses of an arthritic pain medication. A moratorium was placed on DTCA until 1996. After 1996, companies like Purdue Pharma were allowed to advertise direct to consumers, who then asked their physicians to prescribe drugs for chronic pain conditions.

“Physicians began to see pain as something they could — and should — treat. Doctors were convinced to prescribe opioid drugs for conditions for which they had not previously prescribed them. Some argue there is under-prescription for pain — that people who live with serious pain are now denied access to medications that could help them.

“The problem isn’t well characterized as ‘over-medication for pain.’ We cannot blame doctors when it is patients who plead for pain medications. Doctors are part of the solution, but this problem is far larger than changing prescribing practices in medicine.”

“For many years, doctors were cautious in prescribing pain medication, sometimes leaving patients with untreated levels of pain,” said Professor Joseph R. Guydish, University of San Francisco. “Doctors were later trained to prescribe adequate levels of pain medication, and prescription of pain medication increased. The pharmaceutical industry developed new opioid medications, marketed them aggressively, and wrongly claimed they were not addictive or had low addiction potential.

“Patients asked for, and doctors prescribed these new medications. Physician prescribing practices are partly responsible, but we should also ask to what degree pharma is responsible for the current epidemic.”