Thursday, June 11, 2009

A High Old Time in Washington, D.C.

Feds release state-by-state drug use figures.

It’s that time of year again: the season for publishing the annual SAMHSA drug sweepstakes. SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services, has released its latest national report, covering 2007.

The map to the right shows illicit drug use in the past month among persons aged 12 or older, by state--------------------->

Which states exhibited the most felonious behavior when it comes to illegal drugs?

This year, the big all-around champion—especially in the cocaine category—was the nation’s capital. Washington, D.C. outpaced the rest of the country in almost everything, ranking number one for cocaine, number one for alcohol, and number three for marijuana, according to the study.

The Washington area, writes Maria Schmitt in the Washington Examiner, “has had a troubling association with drugs and alcohol, from the overdose death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias to the undercover bust of then-Mayor Mario Barry to last year’s DUI arrest of Rep. Vito Fossella of New York.”

Meanwhile, Vermont stubbornly holds onto the title of pot-smoking capital of the country. Freedom and Unity, as the state motto would have it. Utah retains its title as the most unstoned state in the union. It also ranks dead last in alcohol abuse. Meanwhile, North Dakota leads the nation in underage drinking.

The Midwestern plains states, by and large, don’t seem to be showing any latent signs of picking up a serious illegal drug habit. For abstaining addicts looking for the least environmental drug cues, Iowa and Nebraska are probably the best bets. Although if you talk to residents of those two states, they will tell you about vastly underreported alcohol and methamphetamine problems.

What inevitably strikes the outside observer is the bewildering range of use from state to state. To use one example, Iowa, my home state, recorded half the illegal drug use of Rhode Island—yet Iowa’s alcohol abuse levels were pegged at 9.2 per cent, which places it among the nation’s major drinking states.

As states beg for various kinds of funding, SAMHSA’s figures have come under fire in the past, their accuracy and political neutrality questioned. So take them with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, the figures likely represent certain broad trends with relative fidelity. “This report shows that while every state faces its own unique pattern of public health problems,” said SAMHSA acting administrator Eric Broderick in a press release, “these problems confront every state.”

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