Regional Variations in Use of Drugs


Data on the Locations where men were Living at the time of the interview became available late in the process of preparing this report. The computer tape has not been checked with the interview schedules, but it is known that the Location of one respondent is Listed incorrectly. Consequently, data are available for 2,509 rather than 2,510 men. The importance of the available data justify inclusion of a brief discussion of regional variations.

Data on the Lifetime use of all drugs except tobacco and alcohol are presented in Table “Lifetime Drug Use by Regions and Divisions of U.S. in Which Respondents Lived at Time of Interview (Percentages)” in terms of the four regions and nine major divisions of the United States. The percentages for the regions are offset and enclosed in parentheses to facilitate comparisons.

For five of the drugs the rank order of the regions is the same; the West had the highest percentage, and was followed by the Northeast, North Central and the Southern regions. This pattern was observed for marihuana, psychedelics, stimulants and sedatives; it also held for cocaine, as the apparent tie between the North Central and Southern regions disappeared when an extra decimal place was used. A similar pattern appeared for heroin, except that the position of the Southern and North Central regions was reversed. The only major exception was in use of the other opiates; the highest percentage was found in the North Central region, and it was followed by the West, South and Northeast. There are only minor differences among the Latter three regions.

With the exception of the opiates, the percentages of use in the West were well above the national averages. Without exception the percentages for the South were below the national averages, and only for opiates did the percentage differ by less than 10 percent of the national average. The Northeast tended to be above and the North Central region below the percentages for the total sample, but the differences were usually small.

When divisions within the regions are examined, some of the patterns are stable. The Pacific division had the highest percentage for all drugs except opiates, and even for opiates the figure was not much below the percentage in the total sample. This should not be generalized too far; almost all of the respondents in this division were in California. The Mountain division also had high percentages of use. It had the highest percentage for opiates, and was second only to the Pacific division for stimulants, heroin and cocaine. All of the states in the division were represented in the sample, but most of the respondents resided in Arizona, Colorado and Montana.

The East South Central division usually had the lowest percentage of use; the exceptions were heroin and cocaine, but even for these drugs, the percentages in this division were among the lowest and below the national average. These are probably better estimates than for most divisions. Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama were well represented, and only Mississippi was noticeably underrepresented.

The West South Central division tended to have the next lowest percentages. Texas accounted for most of the cases, but there were a fair number of respondents from Louisiana and Oklahoma; only Arkansas was greatly under-represented.

The findings were similar for current drug use. The data in Table “Current (1974-75) Use of Drugs by Regions and Divisions of U.S. in Which Respondents Lived at Time of Interview (Percentages)” again show that the percentages of use were highest in the West, except for opiates, but there was a tie with the Northeast for current marihuana use. The South had the lowest percentages for marihuana, stimulants, heroin and cocaine. Its highest relative rankings were for psychedelics and sedatives, and for these drugs the South was tied for second place with the North Central and Northeast regions, respectively.

There was more variation among the nine divisions for current than lifetime use. The Pacific division ranked highest for psychedelics, stimulants, heroin and cocaine; it was tied for first place for sedatives, and it was second highest – and almost equal to the Northeast – for marihuana. However, for opiate use it ranked eighth.

The percentages for lifetime use were high in the Mountain division, but this region was usually in the middle of the rankings in terms of current use. Only for stimulants and cocaine was it as high as second place. As was the case for lifetime use, the East South Central division had low percentages of current use, but it was not clearly the lowest. The West South Central division also tended to have low percentages but was tied for first place on sedative use.

Regional differences on current and lifetime use are not identical; this can be seen by examining the distribution of the highest and second highest ranks of the seven drugs across the nine geographical divisions. For lifetime use the Pacific division had 6 of these 14 high percentages, while the Mountain division had 4, the Northeast 3, and the West North Central 1. The Middle Atlantic division also had 1, by virtue of a tie for second place for sedatives.   The other four divisions had none of the first or second place rankings.

On the other hand, for current use the Pacific division again had 6 of the high percentages, while the Mountain, Northeast, West North Central and South Atlantic divisions had 2 each, and the Middle Atlantic, East North Central, South Atlantic and West South Central had 1 each. Only one division, the East South Central, did not rank as high as second for any of the drugs.

Part of this difference is an artifact. There were more ties in the rankings of current use; thus, there were more high percentages to tabulate. The percentages for current use fell within a narrower range, and this increased the probability of ties. The fact remains that more of the divisions ranked high in terms of current use of one of the drugs than was the case for lifetime use.

While there were differences among the four regions, it should also be emphasized that even the region that showed the lowest percentage for any drug, whether for lifetime or current use, was never far below the percentage for the nation as a whole. The differences were greater among the nine divisions, but the representativeness of the sample for these divisions is questionable, and sampling variation may explain most of these differences. Further, regional differences have not yet been examined in connection with other variables; if, for example, one region or division included a high proportion of respondents from large cities this would inflate the rates of drug use in that area. In later reports the data pertaining to regional variations will be examined in greater detail.


Selections from the book: “Young Men and Drugs: A Nationwide Survey”. John A. O’Donnell, Ph.D., et al., editors. Report of a national survey of drug use by men 20-30 years old in 1974-1975. National Institute on Drug Abuse Research Monograph 5, February 1976.