Another Rising Tide? 2020 Drug and Alcohol Deaths by State and County
New Interactive Maps Illustrate Impact by State and County
In recent posts I examined how the COVID pandemic potentially resulted in increased drug and alcohol deaths, with a particular focus on New York. The most recent Federal CDC WONDER data illustrate that drug and alcohol deaths greatly increased nationally in 2020. From 2019 to 2020 drug deaths grew 29% nationally (from 74,511 deaths in 2019 to 96,096 in 2020), while alcohol-induced* deaths increased increased 26% (from 39,043 to 49,061). These dramatic increases were after previous years of decline.
From 2019 to 2020 drug deaths grew 29% nationally (from 74,511 deaths in 2019 to 96,096 in 2020), while alcohol-induced deaths increased increased 26% (from 39,043 to 49,061).
But how does it look when you break down drug and alcohol deaths by state and by county?
Below analyzes drug and alcohol deaths by state and county in 2020. I’ve included several interactive maps for the reader to explore. To rank states and counties, I calculated a per capita rate (X number of deaths for every 100,000 people) to equalize for population. Where there isn’t reliable data or data suppressed by the federal government for potential privacy issues will be marked by gray in the maps.
(Note: For my email subscribers you may not see the maps in the email version unless you go to the main webpage, so I encourage you to visit my main page).
Part 1. 2020 Drug Deaths by State and by County
A. West Virginia Had the Highest Per Capita Drug Death Rate, While South Dakota Had the Lowest
In 2020, West Virginia had the highest drug death rate in the country with more than 78 out of 100,000 people dying from drug related deaths. Including the District of Columbia, West Virginia was followed by Washington D.C. (60.6), Kentucky (48.8), Maryland (46.5), Ohio (46), Tennessee (45.9), and Delaware (45.4) with the high per capita drug deaths in 2020.
States with the lowest drug deaths in 2020 were South Dakota (9.6), Nebraska (12.2), Iowa (14.2), Texas (14.9), Montana (15.9), Idaho (16.1), and North Dakota (16.2). For each state see the interactive map below. The darker the blue are the states with fewer drug deaths and the darker the red are those states with the greatest number of drug deaths.
B. Of All the Counties in the United States, McDowell County in West Virginia Had the Greatest Number of Drug Deaths in 2020
Per capita drug deaths by county ranged from approximately 5 for every 100,000 people to more than 171 for every 100,000 people. West Virginia not only led the nation in drug deaths in 2020, but three of the top five counties with the greatest numbers of drug deaths were in West Virginia. The counties with the nation’s highest number of drug deaths were McDowell County, West Virginia (171.4); Summers County, West Virginia (168.8); Logan County, West Virginia (154.6), Scioto County, Ohio (148), and Baltimore City, Maryland (144.8). To put this into context, while West Virginia overall had a drug death rate of 78 for every 100,000 people, in McDowell County it was more than twice the number of deaths.
The counties with the fewest drug deaths in 2020 were Cameron County, Texas (5.2); Hidalgo County, Texas (7.7); Williamson County, Texas (7.9); Denton County, Texas (8.5); and Loundon County, Virginia (9).
For a full break down by county see the map below (If you hover over a county, the per capita number will appear in the legend in the top lefthand side).The darker the blue circle means the lower the drug death rate by county and the darker the red circle means the greater the drug death rate. These are rankings for 763 counties that have information/data provided by the federal government. Given some data issues, many counties do not have information. You can also zoom into specific areas on the map.
Part 2. 2020 Alcohol-Induced Deaths by State and by County
A. New Mexico Had Highest Per Capita Alcohol-Induced Death Rate, While Hawaii Had the Lowest
For alcohol-induced deaths, New Mexico (43.9), Wyoming (39), Alaska (33.1), South Dakota (30.4), Montana (27.7), Colorado (27), and Oregon (26.7) were the highest in 2020. South Dakota, for instance, had one of the lowest drug death rates in the nation, yet one of the highest alcohol drug death rates in the nation.
The states with the lowest alcohol-induced death rates in 2020 were Hawaii (9.3), Louisiana (9.5), New York (9.7), New Jersey (9.7), Maryland (9.9), and Pennsylvania (10). See the table below.
B. Broken Down by County, Shannon County in South Dakota Had the Greatest Number of Alcohol-Induced Deaths in 2020
Two of the top five counties with the greatest number of alcohol-induced deaths were in South Dakota. The top were Shannon County, South Dakota (199); Todd County, South Dakota (193.9); McKinley, New Mexico (161); Apache County, Arizona (133.6); and, Fremont County, Wyoming (122.1). In other words, the county with the greatest number of alcohol-induced fatalities in the county, Shannon County had 199 deaths for every 100,000 people — or nearly three and a half times greater than state with the most, New Mexico.
The counties with the lowest per capita alcohol related deaths were Hidalgo County, Texas (5.3); Fort Bend County, Texas (5.4); Westchester County, New York (5.5); Montgomery County, Maryland (5.5); Utah County, Utah (5.8); and, Howard County, Maryland (6.1).
Again, this was for the 518 counties that the federal government provided data for 2020. (If you hover over a county, the per capita number will appear in the legend in the top lefthand side).The darker the blue circle the lower the drug death rate by county and the darker the red circle the greater the drug death rate. You can also zoom into specific areas on the map.
Part 3. Comparing Drug Versus Alcohol Deaths, by State
Only twelve states had higher alcohol-induced than drug death rates in 2020(Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wyoming). Every other state had more drug than alcohol deaths. The table below shows the per capita alcohol and drug deaths in 2020, by state. The red is the per capita drug deaths and the blue is the per capita alcohol deaths. As the chart illustrates, there is wide variation among the states. While West Virginia has the highest per capita drug death rate in 2020 (78.3); its alcohol-induced death rate is considerably lower (17). In other cases it is reversed, such as in South Dakota. While South Dakota had one of the lowest drug death rate (9.6); it had one of the highest alcohol-induced death rates (30.4).
In other cases there was a dramatic difference between the two, like in West Virginia where there was a more than 61 point difference between drug and alcohol deaths. In other cases, like Colorado the death rates for both were nearly identical.
There continues to be much to unpack when it comes to substance misuse — particularly substance misuse during COVID.
*Vehicle and other accidents as a result of impairment are excluded from the analysis.