Drug Use in Kansas City

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), from 2005-2010 about 13% of people over age 12 in the Kansas City metropolitan area (including counties in Kansas and Missouri) used illicit drugs each year.

That’s about 239,000 youths and adults in a city of 1.8 million. Drug use in Kansas City is about equal to Missouri as a whole and 1% lower than the nation as a whole. 9.6% of Kansas Citians used marijuana, 4.7% used pain pills.

The prevalence of certain drugs depends on where one lives. In recent years, cocaine was a large problem in black and brown communities in the inner city, while meth was a grave issue in the white suburbs — though neither drug is exclusive to a specific area. The National Drug Intelligence Center writes:

African American crack distributors frequently obtain powder cocaine for conversion from Mexican and Hispanic midlevel dealers located in the northeast section of Kansas City, Missouri, and from Mexican wholesale and midlevel dealers in Kansas City, Kansas. Mexican wholesale and midlevel dealers are typically supplied by sources in the El Paso and Phoenix areas.

Mexican wholesale and midlevel dealers typically distribute methamphetamine in outlying and suburban areas of the metropolitan area; most of the methamphetamine available and abused is Mexican ice methamphetamine. In addition, the Overland Park, Kansas, Police Department reports that CPD [controlled prescription drug] abuse has become so problematic that it is now considered the greatest drug threat in that jurisdiction. Oxycodone and hydrocodone are the most commonly abused controlled prescription narcotics, and officials from this police department reported in the third quarter of 2008 that they were investigating an increased number of CPD overdoses. CPD abuse is increasing, particularly among Caucasians between the ages of 16 and 24.

Since Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, that state has become a larger source for users in Kansas City. Kansas City is also a hub of activity in the heroin trade; the availability of heroin has been increasing since 2007. The first half of 2015 saw a 324% increase in heroin transported through the metro. A Kansas City Police Department sergeant said of heroin-related deaths, “We went from having one three to four years ago, that we knew of, to 14 last year [2014].” According to a report from the city website, the drug-related death rate for whites was 12 per 100,000 people, 11 per 100,000 for blacks, between 2009 and 2013.

In 2012, just over 10,000 Kansas Citians entered rehab for drugs and alcohol abuse. 65% of admissions were white, 28% black.

From 2006 to 2012, admittances for cocaine fell dramatically, heroin and marijuana remained steady, and meth increased. The inner city is more likely to see youth in rehab programs than outlying areas. The Mid-America Regional Council reports, “The number of adolescents admitted to residential care facilities in Jackson County make up almost half of the total number admitted, followed by Johnson County which makes up a quarter and Wyandotte County which makes up ten percent.”

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