A decade ago, Utah’s rate of drug-induced deaths was higher than the national average. More people died because of drugs than because of road fatalities and firearms. And things got worse as time passed.

Utah saw a 400% increase in drug overdose deaths between 2000 and 2015. In 2017, there were 456 drug overdose deaths connected to opioids. And on a single-day count during that year, 14,326 people were enrolled in substance use treatment in the state.

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area includes the following Utah counties:

  • Davis
  • Salt Lake
  • Summit
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Weber

Read on to find out the top five most used substances in Utah.

#1 Prescription Opioids

In 2014, a third of adults in the Beehive State had an opioid pain reliever prescription. Many of these people are members of the Mormon faith who avoid alcohol and drugs. But painkillers like OxyContin are addictive. And they’ve drawn Utah families into a nationwide epidemic.

Have a look at these shocking facts.

  • In 2016, one person died every day in the state as a result of a prescription opioid overdose.
  • In 2017, 9% of Utah teens misused painkillers.
  • That same year, Utah had one of the highest high-dosage opioid prescribing rates. With 8.4 prescriptions per 100 people, the state was second only to Delaware.

#2 Illicit Opioids

When people lose access to prescriptions, they turn to illicit drugs like heroin. This has been the case in Utah where heroin-related deaths rose from 55 in 2010 to 147 in 2017.

  • In that same period, synthetic opioid cases jumped from 50 to 92. The majority of these cases involved potent fentanyl. 
  • In 2016, two 13-year-old Park City boys died after consuming the synthetic opioid ‘Pink’ which is much more potent than morphine.
  • In 2015, 27.7% of the women in Utah with HIV contracted the virus through injection drug use.
  • During a single-day count in 2017, 1,417 people were on medication-assisted treatment for opioids.
  • Currently,  the life-saving drug Naloxone is available without a prescription throughout Utah.

#3 Meth

States in the West have seen a resurgence in meth use. Meth-related deaths in Utah have more than doubled since 2014. And law enforcement has had to deal with a growing number of big meth busts.

Consider these startling figures:

  • In 2018, 217 people died due to meth-related causes, the highest on record in Utah. This number was not far behind the 274 opioid deaths in the state.
  • Meth fatalities overtook heroin fatalities in 2019.
  • Also in 2019, authorities seized more than 235 kilograms of meth in Utah.

#4 Other Stimulants

In 2014, stimulants were the most common drugs cited in treatment admissions in Utah. This included meth. But stimulants also refer to club drugs like ecstasy and amphetamines like Adderall.

  • Between 2015 and 2016, Utah had a 6.5% increase in stimulant use.
  • In 2010, Utah was in the top 10 states for past year cocaine use among children aged 12-17.
  • In 2017, cocaine use in the high school age group was at 3%, lower than the national average of 5%. This was an apparent improvement from seven years before.
  • That same year, Utah came ninth on a list ranking states’ psychostimulant use.
  • Operation Rio Grande found that cocaine was one of the primary drugs in downtown Salt Lake City.

#5 Marijuana

Marijuana is illegal for recreational use in Utah. But a 2019 report by the Utah Department of Health found that about 6% of adults use the substance. Only 26.9% of this group used marijuana just for medical reasons.

  • During 2014-2017, the annual average prevalence of marijuana use disorder in Utah was 1.3%. This is close to the national average of 1.5% for people aged 12 and older.
  • THC edibles and vape cartridges are one of the top 5 most tested substances at the Utah Bureau of Forensic Sciences Crime Lab.
  • In 2019, Utah’s vaping rate was six times higher than the national average. And THC cartridges, many of them sourced from the black market, are causing a spate of illnesses.
  • Spice, or synthetic marijuana, is a growing problem in Salt Lake City. The unpredictable and dangerous drug came in at 6th on the Crime Lab’s list of tested substances.

Get Treatment for Substance Abuse in Utah

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, help is available. We highly recommend seeking treatment.

Health experts assist patients to detox in a safe way that minimizes withdrawal symptoms. Thereafter, treatment includes therapy which provides tools to deal with triggers.

Counseling also addresses any underlying reasons for substance misuse. Where appropriate, treatment can include medication for a dual diagnosis. This holistic approach supports patients so that they can get sober and stay sober.

Getting drugs doesn’t have to be easier than getting help. Contact a rehab program near you today. It’s the first step towards a more healthy, happy life.


  1. Alberty, E. (2019). Meth is killing more Utahns than ever before
  2. Forgie, A. (2019). Meth most tested substance at Utah Crime Lab
  3. Mccombs, B. (2019). Utah’s vaping rate 6 times higher than national average

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