Montana is known as the “Big Sky State” because of its wide-open frontiers and the blue skies above gorgeous snowy mountain ranges. While it’s the fourth biggest state, Montana is forty-forth in population. This means that there is plenty of open range for everyone to get some space in the state.

While a large portion of the state’s economy relies on ranching and other agricultural efforts, more and more people are coming to Montana every year as tourists. They come for the national parks such as Yellowstone and the Little Bighorn battlefield monument, but many also come to ski and snowboard in the mountains.

A looming problem, however, is increasing rates of drug use in several categories. Montana needs to do something about this drug use before it spoils what is really a lovely part of our country.

Information about Drug Use in Montana

The following is a breakdown of drug use and consequences of use in the state of Montana:

  • Montana is in the top ten states for past month illegal drug use by teenagers between 12 and 17. It is also one of the top states for marijuana use by teenagers and drug dependence or addiction in teenagers.
  • 10.77 percent of Montana residents admit to using drugs in the past month. This is higher than the national average of 8.82 percent of all Americans.
  • 15.1 Montana residents die as a direct result of their drug use for every 100,000 people that live in the state. This is higher than the national average of only 12.8 people per 100,000 dying across the rest of the country.

The Montana Drug Problem

While Montana has one of the nation’s smallest populations with just over 1 million residents, per capita its residents appear to use illicit drugs more than those in other states.  In fact Montana falls in the highest range of drug use for many categories according the National Survey for Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), and has done so for several years.

The NSDUH survey is an annual effort to collect information on the drugs Americans abuse, and which areas are affected the most by addiction.  The survey has been in existence since the 1970s, and its statistics are broken down into categories by drug, and by age groups.  The nine categories of drugs include: marijuana, inhalants, stimulants, heroin, cocaine, hallucinogens, sedatives, tranquilizers, and prescription pain pills which are being used for non-medical purposes.

Montana ranks in the highest range (the 10 highest states) for several of the survey’s specific categories, which include:

  • Illicit drug use in the past month among persons aged 12 and older – 9.5 to 12.5%
  • Illicit drug use other than marijuana in past month among persons aged 12 to 17 – 6%
  • Non-medical use of pain relievers among persons aged 12 to 17 – 8 to 10%

One of the most alarming statistics is that 10 percent of residents aged 12 to 17 answered that they had used prescription pills for nonmedical purposes.  While this is in line with the national trend of prescription drug abuse, Montana is leading the pack when it comes to young people using the drugs.  In 2013 the Montana Meth Project, a group founded to combat the state’s methamphetamine problem, sponsored events that focus on giving teens and families an opportunity to safely dispose of prescription drugs that might be in their homes unused.

Some of the most common drugs of abuse in Montana are:

  • Marijuana has continued to be the most widely abused drug in Montana. For the last twenty years, it has continued to be responsible for just under 50 percent of all Montana residents that enter Montana drug treatment. Marijuana use in the past year among persons aged 12 and older went up from 12 to 16%
  • For much of the last two decades, meth use climbed and climbed to the point that it had just about matched marijuana in usage rates and drug treatment admissions. For the last eight years, though, usage rates dropped and then came slightly back up again. At this point, meth accounts for just over 20 percent of all treatment.
  • Cocaine, crack and heroin are all responsible for only a few percentage points of all drug use in the state. They are virtually non-existent compared to other drugs abused and treated in Montana. Cocaine use in the past year among persons aged 18 to 25 went up from – 8 to 10.5%

Sources & Resources for Montana Drug Treatment Montana Drug Control Update – Montana Meth Project Launches Prescription Drug Abuse Campaign –