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The Most Common Drug Discussed in Each U.S. City

Substance abuse is a problem across the United States and around the world, and is discussed frequently in the media as a result. The degree to which each U.S. city is grappling with a drug crisis varies — some have more severe problems to solve than others. Consequently, how addictive drugs are covered in local media outlets varies based on how problems and solutions are developing in that area, whether it’s an opioid crackdown or local law changes.

With this in mind, we decided to look further into how media coverage of drug-related topics varies across U.S. cities. We wanted to see where local news outlets focus their coverage, specifically when it comes to each type of drug. To do so, we looked at three major local news outlets based in each of the 50 largest cities in the United States. We compiled the count of articles written about each major addictive drug, including methamphetamines, cocaine, MDMA, ecstasy, marijuana, LSD, heroin, and opioids.

From there, we were able to find the drug that each city discusses most in the media (based on count of articles), as well as the top three cities that cover each drug the most (based on percentage of articles for each city). Our results reflect the growing discussion of marijuana legalization across the country. Additionally, it highlights cities where other substances are more top of mind.


The Drug Discussed Most in the Media in Each U.S. City


Drug Discussed Most in Each US City - Map


First, we looked at which drug is covered most in each U.S. city. It is apparent from the map that most media outlets have focused heavily on the topic of marijuana, likely due to the changes around legalization legislation taking place in certain states. In all, 41 of the 50 cities included in our analysis discuss marijuana more than any other illicit substance. Five cities cover opioids the most, which are Baltimore MD, Cleveland OH, Memphis TN, Portland OR, and Washington DC. Three cities, which are Austin TX, Cincinnati OH, and Nashville TN, focus most heavily on heroin in their local media, and just one city (Miami FL) discusses cocaine most.


The Three Drugs Discussed Most in the Media in Each U.S. City


Top 3 drugs discussed in each city


It’s also important to know which other addictive drugs are discussed in each city, as well as how much of a difference there is in coverage between them. To dig deeper into this, we looked at the top three drugs talked about in each city and the numbers behind the rank. There are certain cities where the most discussed and second-most discussed show only a small difference between them, such as marijuana (35.5%) and cocaine (30.3%) in Chicago IL. However, there are others where the most discussed is covered more than the second-most discussed by a large margin. This is the case in cities like Cleveland OH, Denver CO, and Boston MA.


The Cities That Discuss Each Drug the Most in the Media


Top cities to discuss each drug in the media


Finally, we looked at the three cities that cover each drug the most. Since four substances (marijuana, opioids, heroin, and cocaine) dominate the headlines across U.S. cities, we wanted to see how each city compares for all of the major drugs included in our analysis. We found that cities in the West generally cover methamphetamines more, as the top three cities for this drug are all in that region. Similarly, the top cities covering MDMA are all in the South. Overall, it’s apparent that certain substances and their related issues take up most of the news coverage across the United States.


Drug abuse and addiction are problems for many no matter which city you’re in, and luckily it’s something that many are talking about in the media. Hopefully this discussion will spread the word about solutions for those who are suffering and awareness about the issues in general. If you know someone who may be dealing with a substance abuse disorder, find out more about ways you or a professional can help.



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About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Sunrise House is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More