People know Pennsylvania for its rich American history and beautiful country, but the state has a dark side.

Substance abuse in PA is off the charts, and some drugs are being used and abused far more commonly than others. If you live in PA or are traveling through, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on the state’s most abused drugs so that you are well informed.

Because of Pennsylvania’s unique combination of huge cities and very rural regions, some drugs have taken over. Among the state’s top drugs are heroin, alcohol, and opioids.

Keep reading to find out more about PA’s top 5 most commonly abused drugs.

#1: Heroin

Heroin has a firm grip on Pennsylvania, and the situation does not appear to be getting better any time soon. The opioid crisis has hit PA harder than almost anywhere in the country. Thousands of lives have been lost and people are becoming addicted at alarming rates.

Although new regulations are helping to reduce the amount of painkillers being abused and sold illegally, the heroin crisis is still out of control. Rates of heroin abuse rise alongside rates of painkiller abuse because opioid addicts turn to heroin to find a cheaper, more widely available fix.

Let’s look at some of PA’s heroin stats to better understand the state’s crisis:

  • In 2018, more than 32% of the people who sought substance abuse treatment in PA were heroin addicts.
  • Of this 32%, or 8,974 people, about 70% were male.
  • In 2017, PA’s overdose death rate was 44.3 people per 100,000 residents. This is more than double the national rate of 21.3 deaths per 100,000. Many of these overdoses involved heroin.

#2: Alcohol

Alcohol is America’s deadliest drug, and it’s not even close. Just because alcohol is legal does not mean it is safe. In Pennsylvania, alcohol abuse is a big problem.

When it comes to alcohol, there are many potential dangers involved. Deaths can occur as a result of poisoning, accidents including car crashes, and long-term health issues like heart or liver failure. Those who do not die from their alcohol abuse are still likely to face social and health consequences.

Let’s take a look at PA’s alcohol stats:

  • About 31% of the people who needed substance abuse treatment in PA in 2018 listed alcohol as their main drug of abuse.
  • In 2017, 293 people died in alcohol-related car crashes in Pennsylvania.
  • About 3/4 of the people in alcohol treatment in PA are men.

#3: Prescription Opioids

PA has a huge opioid problem. Even with recent restrictions on prescriptions, thousands of people are struggling with prescription opioid abuse in the state. The crisis has prompted the governor to issue a declaration of disaster for Pennsylvania.

Let’s take a look at some of the shocking stats behind PA’s opioid crisis:

  • Roughly, in 2018 to 2019, nearly 30,000 doses of Naloxone were administered by EMS in Pennsylvania. Naloxone is a drug given to counteract an opioid overdose.
  • 19,652 people visited the ER in the same two-year period because of opioid overdoses.
  • 29,921 people called ‘Get Help Now’ hotlines for opioids in the state from 2018 to 2019.
  • 2,617 people needed treatment in 2018 for opiates other than heroin.

#4: Marijuana

Weed is being legalized across the country, and PA looks to be one of the next states that is likely to make the switch. If we have learned any lesson from alcohol, it should be that just because a substance is legal does not mean that it is safe.

People tend to think that pot is non-addictive and even ‘healthy’. Unfortunately, this is not true. Just take a look at the following statistics to understand how marijuana abuse is affecting the people of PA:

  • 4,020 people needed treatment for marijuana in PA in 2018.
  • Almost 80% were male.
  • Pot was the 3rd-leading cause of treatment admissions in 2018 behind only alcohol and heroin.

#5: Cocaine

Cocaine still has a fairly strong presence in Pennsylvania. Although we are not seeing numbers like those seen in the 1980’s, there are still many people abusing cocaine and dying of overdose in Pennsylvania.

In 2018, about 1,600 people needed treatment for their cocaine abuse issues in PA. More than half of these cases were users of crack cocaine.

Get Treatment for Drug Abuse in PA

Struggling with addiction is difficult, but you do not have to do it alone. The best place to tackle your substance abuse issues is at a professional treatment center. After detox and rehab, you will be ready to transition back into your life drug-free.

Call us today to learn more about your options for treatment. You can also call for a loved one to learn how you can support them better and get them into treatment. Don’t hesitate, call now!


  1. Crash Facts. (2018, August 29)
  2. DASIS Quick Statistics. (n.d.)
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, May 22). Pennsylvania Opioid Summary
  4. Pennsylvania Opioids. (n.d.)

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