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Minnesota ranked America's least 'problem area' for drug use

WalletHub used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other sources to rank each state by the severity of its drug issues, and Minnesota looks pretty clean.

WalletHub used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other sources to rank each state by the severity of its drug issues, and Minnesota looks pretty clean. Alex Kormann, Star Tribune

Minnesota loves getting ranked at the top of lists. Now we get to celebrate being at the bottom of one.

This victory comes to us from WalletHub, which created a ranked list of drug problems by state, in an attempt to designate 2020's "Problem Areas."

Its methodology factored in 22 different kinds of data cribbed from sources like the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They included metrics like children who live with an adult with a drug problem, drug arrests per capita, and the percentage of young people who'd tried marijuana before the age of 13, all of them scored on a scale of 1 to 100.

Minnesota racked up low scores, pretty much across the board. Our final score was 26.11, putting us squarely at No. 51—the bottom of the list. We were also last on a similar list published by WalletHub last year.

At the very top was Missouri, with a total score of 58.96. It had the highest score in the law enforcement category, which measures data like employee drug testing laws, drug arrests on college campuses (per 1,000 students), and laws to monitor prescription drugs.

Next in line were West Virginia (58.72), Michigan (58.32), the District of Columbia (56.82), and New Hampshire (56.30).

Joining us at the bottom of the rankings are, in reverse order, Hawaii (26.62), Kansas (32.78), Idaho (33.02), and our next-door neighbor, South Dakota (33.62). Our other neighbors fared pretty well, too, with Iowa at No. 44, North Dakota No. 43, and Wisconsin No. 42.

The No. 51 ranking might be cold comfort for anyone personally familiar with Minnesota’s relationship with drugs and alcohol. According to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), in 2018, 343 Minnesotans died of overdoses involving opioids. This was actually a marked improvement over 2017’s total of 422, but still a far cry from the early 2000s, when annual deaths numbered less than 100.

And, as you probably could have guessed, the opioid epidemic doesn’t affect all of us the same way. In Minnesota, Native Americans are six times more likely to die of a drug overdose than white people, according to MDH. Black residents are also substantially more likely to be affected this way than white ones.

We’ve also seen an alarming increase of opioid usage among kids over the course of the last decade. Last year, some 4 percent of eighth graders reported using prescription paid medication in ways not recommended by their doctors, or without any prescription at all.

And then there’s alcohol. Minnesota had one of the highest binge drinking rates in the nation in 2018. It’s a problem, the MDH says, that’s remained pretty stagnant over the past seven years, at least among adults. Kids, in general, are less likely to binge drink than they used to be, but way more likely to vape.

All told, we lost over 1,700 people every year between 2013 and 2017 to alcohol-related deaths.