The District of Columbia turned out to top the list of all the states in terms of drug problems, according to a research released by the personal finance website WalletHub.
With a total score of 59.95, D.C. ranked first in Drug Use and Addiction, 34th in Law Enforcement and second in Drug Health Issues and Rehab, while also topping the overall ranking.
As for teenage drug use in the past month, the District of Columbia is in the fourth place, with Rhode Island ranking first and Utah 51st, as the state with the lowest percentage of teenage drug users.
D.C. also has the second highest percentage of adult drug users, while it ranks 51st, with the fewest opioid prescriptions per 100 people.
The District is sharing the top spot with West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, for the most number of overdose deaths per capita.
Another category the capital city ranked first was the “highest percentage of adults with unmet drug treatment needs.” (People who needed but did not receive treatment in the past year.) It also ranked second for fewest substance abuse treatment facilities per 100,000 drug users.
“Given the uncertain future and lack of significant progress to date, it’s fair to wonder where drug abuse is most pronounced and which areas are most at risk in the current political climate,” the report said.
In order to reach the results, D.C. and the 50 states were evaluated in three overall categories, which are “Drug Use and Addiction”, “Law Enforcement” and “Drug Health Issues and Rehab”, consisting of 22 relevant metrics in total such as “Share of Teenagers Who Used Illicit Drugs in the Past Month,” “Share of Adults Who Used Illicit Drugs in the Past Month,” “Maternity Drug Policy,” and “Drug Treatment Programs Availability for Pregnant Women.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had announced earlier this year that thousands of anti-overdose kits would be distributed by community health organizations and police officers by the end of September in order to combat the ongoing opioid crisis.
According to WalletHub, the federal drug budget increased from $23.8 billion in 2013 to over $27.7 billion in 2018.
“Opioid use disorder (OUD) is treatable for some individuals with pharmacotherapy (medication assisted treatment; e.g., buprenorphine, methadone, suboxone). People need more access to evidence-based medical treatments, and at present these treatments are underutilized,” said Meredith S. Berry (Assistant Professor, Department of Health Education and Behavior, Department of Psychology, University of Florida), who contributed to the WalletHub report.
“Other barriers to treatment include stigmatization, a lack of social support, and restrictive and uninformed healthcare and drug policies,” Berry added.
Richard Rawson (Professor Emeritus, UCLA, Research Professor, University of Vermont, Center for Behavior and Health) also urged state and local authorities to “expand access to medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD), particularly buprenorphine, delivered in primary care settings.”
Rawson also thinks that it is necessary to expand the number of opioid treatment programs (OTPs) with the capacity to provide methadone and buprenorphine.
Courtney Olcott (Assistant Research Scientist & Program Manager, Prevention Insights, Indiana University School of Public Health), the other hand, stated that the authorities need to focus on prevention:
“To that end, the first step in effectively addressing the opioid epidemic at the state and local levels is to take a collaborative approach and have a representative coalition of individuals that understand all facets of the epidemic and ensure prevention is a prioritized focus.”