These States Use The Most Mood-Altering Drugs

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
As we've said before, being stressed sucks. To deal with that stress, some turn to drugs — prescription or otherwise. Now, a new poll reveals how many people in each state are using mood-altering drugs nearly every day.

The Gallup poll used data collected by interviewing 176,702 adults as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. All interviews took place in 2014, and at least 450 people were interviewed from each state and the District of Columbia. For this report in particular, people were asked how often they used drugs or medications that "affect your mood and help you relax." This was open to interpretation and could include prescription drugs or recreational ones such as alcohol, nicotine, or marijuana.

Results showed that states with the highest percentage of people using these drugs "almost every day" were West Virginia (28.1%), Rhode Island (25.9%), and Kentucky (24.5%). Those states with the lowest percentages were Alaska (13.5%), Wyoming (15.5%), and California (15.8%). New York was near the lower end at 17.4%.

The report notes that states with more people using drugs to help them relax tend to have lower scores of well-being, a dimension which takes into account measures of both health and happiness. Indeed, we saw very similar state patterns in the overall well-being report: Alaska ranked at the top while West Virginia was at the very bottom. 

About 11% of Americans age 12 or older use antidepressants. Although those drugs can truly help many people, they can also take weeks to actually work — and they come with a bunch of unpleasant side effects. So, researchers are starting to look at other drugs that may provide better relief without the need to use them for such a long time. In a few years, these drug-use rankings may look very different.


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