A decade ago, the rate of drug-related deaths in Missouri was higher than the national average. More people died because of drug use than because of firearms.

Consider a SAMHSA report working with data between 2005 and 2010. An average 9.5% of the Greater St. Louis area’s population had a substance use disorder. This amounts to about 219,000 people aged 12 and older.

Today, drugs are a public health crisis that the state continues to grapple with. A recent WalletHub study suggests Missouri has the third worst drug problem in the U.S.

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

#1 Marijuana

Marijuana is only legal for medical use in Missouri. Despite this fact, the drug remains popular both in rural and urban parts of the state.

  • In 2009, 24.2% of all high school seniors reported use of the substance in the past month. The Missouri Department of Public Safety calls it the youth’s drug of choice.
  • A 2014 NSDUH survey estimated that 639,000 Missourians aged 12 and older used cannabis in the past year.

#2 Stimulants

Missouri has a massive meth problem. It used to be America’s meth production capital before restrictions were placed on sales of the key ingredient pseudoephedrine. While meth production has lowered, consumption is still high.

  • Between 2012 and 2016, the number of people seeking treatment for meth addiction in Missouri increased by 52%.
  • In 2018, one third of overdose deaths in Missouri were attributed to meth.

Cocaine has also been a significant issue in the Show Me State. Use is concentrated in Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia and Springfield.

  • In 2014, an estimated 57,000 Missouri residents aged 12 and above used cocaine in the past year (NSDUH).

#3 Alcohol

As recently as 2019, alcohol use in Missouri was higher than the national average. According to a 2013 CDC report, excessive drinking causes around 1,866 deaths in the state every year.

Youth consumption is of particular concern. Have a look at these shocking facts:

  • In 2007, underage drinking caused about 10 fatal burns, drownings and suicides.
  • In 2009, 1,088 young people aged 12 to 20 were admitted to treatment centers in Missouri for alcohol abuse. That same year, 25.3% of surveyed high school students reported binge drinking in the past 30 days. This means they drank five or more drinks in a row.
  • Also in 2009, 248 traffic fatalities occurred because of heavy drinking. 47 of those were linked to underage drinking. In total, there were 4,862 injuries because of alcohol consumption.
  • Underage drinking cost Missourians $545 million in 2010. This includes medical care and loss of work. Teen mothers cost the state $30 million in expenses related to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

#4 Prescription Opioids

Prescription pain relievers play a big part in the opioid epidemic. But for a long time Missouri did not have a statewide prescription drug monitoring program. It’s the last state in the country to put one in place and the program is not as rigorous as elsewhere.

This could explain why overdose death rates were rising within Missouri’s borders while they were in decline in other parts of the country. The state’s late adoption of prescription-free naloxone didn’t help either.

  • 2018: Missouri had the second highest rise in overdose deaths in the country.
  • 2017: the life-saving drug naloxone finally became accessible without a prescription.
  • 2019: it became available in Missouri high schools and colleges for free.

#5 Illicit Opioids

People who get hooked on doctor-prescribed medications eventually lose access to the drug. They then turn to illicit street drugs like heroin to fill the void.

The number of heroin-linked deaths in Missouri has been constant in the last few years. But fentanyl and other similar, potent synthetic opioids such as carfentanil have emerged as new threats. They’ve caused the biggest jump in opioid deaths.

  • Fentanyl-related overdoses went from 56 in 2012 to a whopping 618 in 2017.
  • In 2016, 567 infants were born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. The condition is also known as Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome. A further 1,787 discharges had potential neonatal exposure. And the numbers in 2017 and 2018 were similar.

Get Treatment for Substance Abuse in Missouri

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there is hope. We highly recommend seeking treatment. Health professionals can assist you to get back on your feet, starting with a supervised detox.

Treatment includes therapy which is essential for learning how to become sober and how to stay sober. Counselors also help patients come to terms with the issues that cause substance misuse in the first place. And doctors can prescribe medication where appropriate.

Getting help doesn’t have to be more difficult than getting drugs. Contact Rehab Adviser to discuss the best options to suit your needs. It’s the first step towards a more stable, healthy and happy life.


  1. Dimon, L. (2014). Which Drug Is Your State Most Addicted to? This Map Reveals a Disturbing Trend. Retrieved 10 January 2020, from https://www.mic.com/articles/80091/which-drug-is-your-state-most-addicted-to-this-map-reveals-a-disturbing-trend
  2. Hall, K., & Dunham, T. (2017). The Methiest States In The U.S. Retrieved 14 January 2020, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/meth-states_n_4057372?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAGT8ErKS0DGN0ke5-BoWok5GlElRdOcSdTRreLDrHghxti2Ghd9DTrJOjNigF6vFWKU8-slTOKnqQlzG1l5Wa9guTU2TgrzNnK6cM5zwTyzPtpvBO3t399V55I9QeI9S5y6n4RRr5dQ5H2tKpsF0ZUPtD5tcF_MoCgEG8qsQm6I5
  3. Marso, A. (2019). Missouri and Kansas record more drug overdose deaths even as they decline nationwide. Retrieved 14 January 2020, from https://www.kansascity.com/news/business/health-care/article233160531.html
  4. Missouri Opioid Summary. (2019). Retrieved 14 January 2020, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/opioid-summaries-by-state/missouri-opioid-summary
  5. Weber, L. (2019). Why Missouri’s The Last Holdout On A Statewide Rx Monitoring Program. Retrieved 14 January 2020, from https://khn.org/news/why-missouris-the-last-holdout-on-a-statewide-rx-monitoring-program/
  6. https://health.mo.gov/data/opioids/pdf/nas-births-bar.pdf
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/psr/2013/alcohol/2013/MO-alcohol.pdf
  8. https://www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov/MSHPWeb/SAC/crash_data_alcohol_960grid.html
  9. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHMetroBriefReports/NSDUHMetroBriefReports/NSDUH-Metro-St-Louis.pdf
  10. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/docs/state_profile-missouri.pdf
  11. https://dmh.mo.gov/media/pdf/underage-drinking-missouri
  12. https://hartzler.house.gov/sites/hartzler.house.gov/files/Toolkit%20legal_FINAL.pdf
  13. https://www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov/MSHPWeb/SAC/pdf/2012NATUREANDEXTENTREPORT.pdf
  14. https://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/news/2019/02/08/missourians-drink-more-alcohol-than-the-national.html
  15. https://visionforchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Burden_SubsAbuse_MO.pdf

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