Pennsylvania is steeped in the history of our country. Many important battles have been fought there. Philadelphia was the site of the design and signing of our most important government documents. The state is also a fascinating mixture of peoples with its big city livers and its small town Amish folk. It also has a major industrial center in Pittsburg, and it even has a tiny slice of coastline along the Great Lakes.

In the midst of this, drug use has been a blight on one of our country’s most interesting and valuable states.  Statistics show that the usage rates in this state are on track with the rest of the country—a distinction that no state should want to have.

Pennsylvania Drug Use Facts

The following are drug use facts for the state of Pennsylvania:

  • Approximately, 7.99 percent of Pennsylvania residents admit to using illegal drugs in the past month, while the national average is slightly higher at 8.82 percent of Americans in general. This means the state is almost exactly on par with the rest of the country.
  • The number of Pennsylvania residents that die as a direct result of their drug use is also higher than the national average. In Pennsylvania, 15.7 out of every 100,000 people die as a direct result of using drugs, whereas the national average 12.8 people per 100,000.

The Drug Problem in Pennsylvania 

The drug problem in the United States varies from state to state.  Pennsylvania is the sixth largest state by population and on average falls in the bottom half of drug abuse stats relative to the other states.  These numbers are compiled by SAMHSA and are based on surveys that obtain information on nine different categories of illicit drug use: marijuana, heroin, hallucinogens, cocaine, inhalants, tranquilizers, stimulants, sedatives, and non-medical use of prescription pain relievers.

About 7% of all Pennsylvanians had used and illicit substance in the month prior to the survey.  This means that 7 out of every 100 adults over the age of 12 in Pennsylvania use drugs to some extent.  Marijuana is the most widely used drug in the state with 9% of adults having used it in the past month, compared to illicit drugs other than marijuana, which only 3% of the population had used.  The age group with the highest percentage of use of illicit drugs, were adults aged 18 to 25, with between 7% and 8% having used illicit substances other than marijuana in the past month.

One category of drug abuse in Pennsylvania that stands out is overdoses.  Pennsylvania has the 14th highest rate of deaths from drug overdose by population, 15.3 deaths per 100,000 residents.  Most of these overdoses involve prescription drugs, and this number has increased 89 percent since 1999 when the number of drug overdose deaths was 6.1 per 100,000 people.  This increase shows that while the drug problem in Pennsylvania may be slightly lower in key statistics than other states, close to 2000 residents die directly as a result of drug use in the state every year.

In relation to the drug overdose stats the group Trust for America’s Health gave Pennsylvania low scores on implementing strategies for curbing prescription drug abuse.  Considering that 5 out of every 100 adults in the state used painkillers for non-medical purposes in the month prior to the study, this may be considered Pennsylvania’s most pressing drug problem.

An overall view of drug use in the state has found that:

  • Heroin is the most highly used of the major drugs in Pennsylvania. It is responsible for just over 30 percent of all admissions.
  • Marijuana is the second most popular drug in the state after surpassing cocaine and crack in 2008. Rates of usage of this drug have been relatively stable, however. It’s more just that cocaine and crack are being used less, so marijuana automatically moved up a position.
  • Cocaine and crack were once far and away the most used drugs in the state, but they are now declining in usage and in treatment admissions. At just around 16 percent, they now account for less drug treatment admissions that at any recorded point in the state’s history.
  • Stimulants such as meth account for almost none of Pennsylvania’s drug treatment admissions. Prescription drug abuse, however, is currently shooting upward in the state and is now responsible for 20 percent of all admissions.

Resources & Sources for Pennsylvania Drug Treatment Pennsylvania Drug Control Update –

CBS Local Philadelphia: PA Ranked 14th in Number of Prescription Overdose Deaths –