Washington D.C. is the heart of the American government. It is neither a city nor a state; rather, it can be accurately called either a territory or a district.

D.C. is a very urban area, and like many other metropolitan areas in the country, it has major issues with drug and alcohol abuse. When compared with the 50 states, D.C. has some of the highest rates of drug use in the country.

Not all drugs are commonly found in Washington D.C. There are a few types of substances that are abused far more than others in this area. Among them are opioids and alcohol.

Keep reading to learn about Washington D.C.’s top 5 most abused drugs.

#1: Heroin

Heroin is a deadly drug, the use of which has major consequences even in small amounts. Washington D.C. has been hard hit by the opioid crisis. Most of the media attention on this epidemic has focused on the abuse of prescription pain pills, but heroin use has been on the rise recently as well.

People who become addicted to opioids often turn to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to find than pain pills. Unfortunately, the drug causes people to overdose frequently and it can lead to several major health issues.

These are the stats you need to know about heroin use in Washington D.C.:

  • Heroin accounted for almost 30% of D.C. ‘s 2018 substance abuse treatment admissions.
  • Nearly 80% of the people who got treatment for heroin abuse in D.C. last year were men.
  • Heroin overdoses in Washington D.C. rose from 37 cases in 2014 to 127 cases in 2017.

#2: Fentanyl

Fentanyl is not one of the more commonly abused drugs in D.C., but it is the cause of an overdose crisis in the district currently. This powerful synthetic opioid drug can be used for medical purposes as an extreme pain reliever, or it can be made and sold on the black market.

Currently, drug dealers are replacing heroin and cocaine with fentanyl. This is occurring commonly in D.C. This is a very dangerous situation because drug users do not know what they are taking, and this is leading to overdoses.

Take a look at these shocking stats on Fentanyl in D.C.:

  • Synthetic opioid overdoses (mainly fentanyl) in D.C. rose from 13 in 2014 to 182 in 2017.
  • There were 244 opioid overdose deaths in the District of Columbia in 2017 – a rate of 34.7 deaths per 100,000 people. This is nearly triple the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000.
  • Fentanyl is making headlines in D.C. papers because of all the overdose deaths it is causing.

#3: Alcohol

Most people over the age of 21 drink alcohol. It is one of the only legal psychoactive drugs available in the U.S., and its use is widespread across the world. Simply put, we are used to seeing alcohol all around us.

But just because alcohol is legal does not mean it is safe. In fact, it could be called the most dangerous drug in America – as it leads to more accidents and deaths than any other.

D.C. is no different in this respect. It is possible to use alcohol responsibly, but alcohol abuse and addiction are widespread in Washington.

Let’s check out the stats:

  • More than 1,000 people sought treatment for alcohol abuse in D.C. in 2018, accounting for nearly 20% of total treatment admissions.
  • D.C. has the highest rate of heavy drinkers in the country, compared to the 50 states.
  • D.C. has the second-highest percentage of adults who drink.

#4: Cocaine/ Crack

People tend to think that crack and cocaine abuse was a thing of the ’80s, but in some areas of the country, these drugs still have a strong presence. Unfortunately, D.C. has struggled to rid itself of crack and cocaine.

Crack is a less-processed, cheaper version of cocaine. It is less ‘pure’, and is usually found in the form of small grey rocks. It is smoked rather than snorted or ingested. Because it takes less processing, crack is cheaper than cocaine and is commonly used by people who cannot afford a cocaine habit.

Here are the stats you need to know about crack and cocaine abuse in D.C.:

  • 18.1% of treatment admissions in 2018 were from people abusing crack or cocaine.
  • Men and women appear to be equally as likely to abuse crack, but men are more likely to abuse cocaine.

#5: Marijuana

Pot is now legal for recreational use in D.C., but that doesn’t mean it is safe. You can still become addicted to weed, contrary to popular belief. Almost 8% of D.C. ‘s treatment admissions come from pot users.

Before you start using marijuana, it is a good idea to educate yourself on the potential dangers associated with the drug.

Get Treatment for Drug Abuse in Washington D.C.

If you are struggling with substance abuse in D.C., there is still hope. Call us today to learn how you can get treatment and turn your life around.


  1. DASIS Quick Statistics. (n.d.)
  2. DC has highest percentage of heavy drinkers. (2017, December 5)
  3. Deaths From Fentanyl Soar Across D.C. Region. (2019, January 16)
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, March 30). Washington D.C. Opioid Summary

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