Drug and alcohol use is prevalent across the United States, but is it more common in some states than others? To find out, we turned to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and pulled data from its most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2010-2011)1. We analyzed the sections reporting the frequency of marijuana use, illicit drug use, and binge drinking during the previous month, dividing the number for each state by the amount of seconds in a 30-day month (approximately 2,592,000). Take a look at the live snapshots below of how often a person engages in drug and alcohol activities in each state and see how your home state compares.

Frequency of People Using Marijuana

Despite marijuana laws changing at a rapid pace throughout the United States, the video above offers a glimpse at which states have a higher percentage of residents lighting up. As the first state to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in 1996, it's no surprise that Californians have such a lenient attitude toward cannabis, with frequency of use the highest at once every .98 seconds. A recent House vote in May 2014 put a halt on the federal government from interfering with state medical marijuana laws, which exist in nearly half of the states. This coupled with recreational use legalized in Colorado and Washington could result in a significant increase of marijuana use in more states in SAMHSA's next report.

Frequency of People Using Illicit Drugs Other Than Marijuana

The data used from the SAMHSA report for illicit drug use other than marijuana includes cocaine/crack, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, and prescription drugs used non-medically. California once again topped the list of all states with a frequency of 2.4 seconds. According to a recent Economist.com article, heroin and cocaine use in the United States is declining overall, but prohibitionist drug policies have caused global drug and violence issues as well as the production of new psychoactive substances of which the long-term health effects are unknown.

Frequency of Binge Drinking

As you can see, the rate of binge drinking is higher than marijuana and illicit drug use in every state. It's interesting to point out that while North Dakota and Wyoming had the two lowest - and very comparable - frequencies for marijuana and illicit drug use, binge drinking in North Dakota occurred twice as often (once every 15 seconds) than it did in Wyoming (30 seconds). Of course, this is just further testament to a CBSNews.com report pointing out that one in three North Dakota residents admitted to binge drinking in the past month.

Frequency of Overall Drug Use

The rapidly blinking video above demonstrates just how often people use drugs and binge drink across America. The negative consequences of drug and alcohol abuse are plentiful and can lead to severe health problems, including hospitalization and even death. For a national perspective, we used data from the 2011 report from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) to calculate how often a person is taken to an emergency room for drug/alcohol-related reasons. The resulting statistic of once every 12 seconds is startling.


  • http://samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2k11State/NSDUHsae2011/CountTabs/NSDUHsaeCountTabs2011.htm
  • http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/house-votes-block-interference-state-medical-marijuana-laws-article-1.1811958
  • http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21602693-cracking-down-illicit-drugs-means-they-surface-another-form-press-down-pop-up
  • http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/booziest-states-in-america-who-binge-drinks-most/26/
  • http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k13/DAWN2k11ED/DAWN2k11ED.htm

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