Fig. 1

Addiction in Appalachia

By Lydialyle Gibson

Graphic by Allen Carroll

Methamphetamine has been giving Appalachia a bad name. Reporters and policy makers consider the drug a regional epidemic; it’s been called Appalachia’s “newest cottage industry.” Yet a study released in August by the University-based National Opinion Research Center (NORC) shows that coal country may be getting a bum rap. To be sure, substance abuse, especially prescription-drug and heroin abuse, is a growing regional problem, but figures for pot, cocaine, and meth are slightly lower in Appalachia than elsewhere. Analyzing U.S. Department of Health and Human Services surveys, NORC found that 4 percent of Appalachian adults admitted to having used meth, versus 5.4 percent of adults outside the region. Between 2000 and 2004 (the latest year available), the percentage of treatment-facility admissions for meth abuse rose from 1.3 to 4.25 within the region and from 3.8 to almost 7 nationally.