Virginia, like every other state in the nation, is caught up in a serious drug epidemic. In 2013, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) concluded that drug overdoses overtook motor-vehicle collisions and gun-related deaths as the top method of unusual death. The number of overdoses has grown each year, although 2018 saw a slight decrease of 3.4% from the previous year.

So let’s take a look at the most used drugs in Virginia for 2019:

#1. Heroin/Fentanyl

The opioid epidemic is ravaging both the country and the state of Virginia. In August of 2019, various law enforcement agencies executed Operation Cookout, a wide-scale drug bust that resulted in over 30 arrests and the seizure of 14 million fatal doses of fentanyl.

Furthermore, state agencies treat fentanyl and heroin as a single threat since most opioid addicts unknowingly purchase fentanyl or fentanyl-laced heroin. In fact, most opioid addicts have switched to heroin/fentanyl due to the decrease in the number of prescription opioids available.

Additionally, some sobering facts about the opioid epidemic in Virginia include:

  • The total number of fatal heroin overdoses has increased every year since 2010.
  • The most dramatic increase happened in 2016, with a staggering 177.3% increase from the year prior due to the influx of illicitly-produced fentanyl from China.
  • According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, fentanyl was the primary cause of 55% of all drug-related deaths in 2018. This trend was expected to continue in 2019 with a projected 4% increase (approximately 1,550 fatalities).

#2. Methamphetamine

In the years 2007 to 2012, fatal overdoses from methamphetamine consistently stayed in the single digits. However, in 2013 the rate increased and then roughly doubled every following year.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some other statewide figures:

  • According to federal authorities, the number of meth lab seizures increased from 19 cases in 2008 to 201 cases in 2011 (a whopping 958% increase).
  • Fatal methamphetamine overdoses increased 44.3% in 2018.
  • In 2018, fatal methamphetamine overdoses usually occurred in conjunction with the following opioids: fentanyl (46.5%), heroin (33.9%), and/or prescription opioids (28.3%).

#3. Cocaine

Cocaine is seeing an unfortunate resurgence in Virginia. In October 2018, the DEA intercepted more than 20 pounds of cocaine that was being transported from California to Virginia. Less than two weeks later, three men were arrested in Fairfax County for trying to purchase over $1 million in cocaine to transport back to New York state.

Additionally, the total number of fatal overdoses involving cocaine has increased every year since 2013. This alarming trend has resulted in the following statistics:

  • Fatal cocaine overdoses from 2007-2015 frequently occurred in conjunction with prescription opioids (36.6%), heroin (24.6%), and/or alcohol (16.0%).
  • Fatal cocaine overdoses increased 11.5% from 2017 to 2018.
  • In 2018, more than 65% of fatal cocaine overdoses occurred in conjunction with fentanyl.

Cocaine use is also prevalent amongst high school students, with 5% of male students and 2% of female students reporting that they had used any kind of cocaine (powder, crack and/or freebase) more than once in their lifetimes.

#4. Alcohol

Alcohol steadfastly remains an ongoing problem in the state of Virginia. In fact, a 2017 state epidemiological profile on alcohol concluded that:

  • In 2015, 5.9% of adults in Virginia reported binge drinking or heavy alcohol use.
  • Furthermore, 11.0% of youths (from 6th to 12th grade) reported binge drinking in 2015.
  • The number of adults undergoing publicly-funded substance abuse treatment has increased from 26.7 per 100,000 people in 2008 to 31.8 per 100,000 people in 2015.
  • The number of individuals with alcohol problems who have committed suicide has increased from 1.6 per 100,000 people in 2003 to 2.6 per 100,000 people in 2012.

Alcohol also contributes to fatalities on the roads and highways. In 2017, there were 7,285 alcohol-related crashes, resulting in 4,430 injuries and 248 fatalities. Furthermore, there were 278 fatal alcohol-related crashes in 2018 – a 12.1% increase from the year before!

#5. Marijuana

Unlike other states, marijuana is still a highly-controlled substance in Virginia and remains the most widely-abused illicit drug in the state.

Some facts about marijuana abuse in Virginia include:

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Sources

  1. Virginia Department of Health – Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Fatal Drug Overdose Quarterly Report. July 2018. <http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/content/uploads/sites/18/2018/07/Quarterly-Drug-Death-Report-FINAL-Q1-2018.pdf>
  2. Department of Justice Press Release. August 29, 2019. <https://www.justice.gov/usao-edva/pr/operation-cookout-indictment-charges-39-defendants-heroin-and-fentanyl-trafficking>
  3. Virginia Mercury: Record drug overdose deaths projected in Virginia. October 29, 2019. <https://www.virginiamercury.com/blog-va/record-drug-overdose-deaths-projected-in-virginia/>
  4. Office of National Drug Control Policy. Virginia Drug Control Update. January 2013. <https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/docs/state_profile_-_virginia_0.pdf>
  5. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Authorities stop attempt to move more than 20 pounds of cocaine from California to Richmond. October 15, 2018. <https://www.richmond.com/news/local/crime/authorities-stop-attempt-to-move-more-than-pounds-of-cocaine/article_a764e89c-2bbd-53b9-934a-42058046f4c5.html>
  6. Northern Virginia: Undercover agents bust $1M drug deal at Fairfax Home Depot. October 25, 2018. <https://www.northernvirginiamag.com/culture/news/2018/10/25/undercover-agents-bust-1m-drug-deal-at-fairfax-home-depot-purcellville-denies-annexation-of-warner-brook/>
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). 1991-2017 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey. <https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/facts-and-stats/national-and-state-data-sheets/adolescents-and-substance-abuse/virginia/index.html#footnote-1>
  8. State of Virginia Epidemiological Profile: Alcohol 2017. <https://datadashboard.omni.org/VASIS/ExportFiles/Epi%20Profile_Alcohol.pdf>
  9. Commonwealth of Virginia. 2017 Virginia Traffic Crash Facts. <https://www.breitdrescher.com/documents/crash_facts_17.pdf>
  10. 10 News. WSLS: Virginia sees 12% increase in alcohol-related traffic deaths. August 19, 2019. <https://www.wsls.com/news/virginia/virginia-sees-12-increase-in-alcohol-related-traffic-deaths>
  11. Crime in Virginia 2018. Department of State Police. <https://www.vsp.virginia.gov/downloads/Crime_in_Virginia/Crime_in_Virginia_2018.pdf>
  12. Virginia Adult Drug Treatment Courts. Impact Study. April 2012. <http://www.courts.state.va.us/courtadmin/aoc/djs/programs/dtc/resources/2012_va_adult_dtc_impact_study.pdf>

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