We’re in the middle of a drug epidemic with no signs of slowing, and Alabama is no exception to the rule. Going into 2020, the top abused drugs in Alabama include: 

  • Synthetic opioids (including fentanyl)
  • Heroin
  • Cannabis
  • Alcohol
  • Methamphetamine

Between 2016 and 2017, Alabama’s drug overdose rate rose by 11.1%. These are the drugs that showed up the most in treatment admissions in Alabama:

#1: Synthetic Opioids in Alabama

In 2018, there were 12,075 treatment admissions for opioids, including synthetic opioids. In fact, opioids accounted for 67.8% of all drug overdose deaths in 2017.

Synthetic opioids are more likely to cause an overdose than many types of drugs. That’s because they’re more powerful than opiates such as heroin. Some examples of synthetic opioids found in Alabama include:

  • Tramadol
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone
  • Meperidine

Fentanyl is produced en masse in China and shipped into the United States. While Alabama isn’t near a shipping port, it has enough major cities for users to find fentanyl access.

Most drug overdose deaths in Alabama involve fentanyl. That’s because fentanyl is up to 100 times as deadly as heroin. Manufacturers in Alabama cut fentanyl into other drugs to make them stronger. Many fentanyl overdoses happen without the user even knowing they took the drug.

#2: Cannabis in Alabama

Cannabis is legal in new parts of the country every year, but it’s still an illicit drug in Alabama.   There were 3,136 treatment admissions for cannabis in 2017. 

Most people enrolling in drug treatment for cannabis were men. However, fewer men enrolled in treatment for cannabis than in other years. More women enrolled when compared to 2012 numbers.

Men enrolling in treatment for cannabis decreased from 76.3% to 65.9%. Women enrolling for the same reason increased from 23.7% to 34.1%.

#3: Heroin in Alabama

Heroin has lost its place as the #1 abused drug in Alabama, but it’s still a major problem in the area. In 2017, there were 1,258 rehab admissions for heroin. Like cannabis, more women and fewer men used heroin in this period than in 2012. Still, more men used heroin than women.

Historically, heroin is a top reason for the drug epidemic in Alabama. Heroin followed the prescription drug epidemic in Alabama in the early 2000s.

Today its use gives way to cannabis which is easier to find and less harmful. The use of heroin also drops as the use of synthetic opioids increases. That’s because synthetics are easier to find and more powerful.

#4: Alcohol in Alabama

Alcohol is the most commonly co-occurring substance in Alabama. That means people combine substances with alcohol more often than any other.

In fact, 1 in 8 adults with substance abuse disorder also had a history of alcohol abuse. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of treatment admissions declined in every age group.

There were 6,181 alcohol treatment admissions in 2018. That’s a decline from 4 years ago but an increase over the year before. In 2017, there were 5,947 admissions for alcohol.

#5: Methamphetamine in Alabama

Methamphetamine is the number-5 most abused drug in Alabama. In 2020, meth use continues to rise in the South. That’s because prescribers are cracking down on painkiller scripts. That’s making it harder to get opioids without turning to heroin. Meth is an inexpensive alternative to opioids, but it can be just as harmful.

There were 5,397 treatment admissions for meth in 2018. That’s more than double the number in 2014, which was just 2,298.

It’s expected that meth admissions will continue to rise as opioids become harder to find.

Other Top Abused Drugs in Alabama

A recent Drug Threat Assessment found that Alabama has high rates of:

  • Controlled substance abuse
  • Hallucinogen abuse
  • Cocaine abuse
  • MDMA abuse

These drugs have a lesser presence in the area, but still strong enough to be a problem. Alabama has a higher-than-average rate of property crime attributed to drug abuse. That includes both burglary and larceny-theft.

Find Help for Drug Abuse in Alabama

Drug abuse can be damaging but it doesn’t have to be part of your life. You can recover from drug abuse with the help of a substance abuse treatment center.

Every treatment situation is different. All rehabs use evidence-based treatment to help you recover. Some examples of evidence-based treatments include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment

Call your local treatment center today to start taking back your life. We’re here to help you at every step of your recovery journey. 


  1. Alabama Department of Mental Health. (2018). Substance abuse treatment in Alabama
  2. Alabama Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Division. (2018). Alabama epidemiological profile: alcohol, tobacco, other drugs
  3. FindLaw. (2020). Alabama marijuana laws

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