Top School Districts in Alabama, 2018

Alabama has a wealth of excellent school districts, the best of which serve suburbs of the state’s largest cities. Of Alabama’s top ten school districts, five represent suburbs of the state’s most populous city, Birmingham, while three others are located near Huntsville, Alabama’s third largest city.

The Cotton State’s best school district is the Mountain Brook School System, serving Mountain Brook, a suburb of Birmingham and one of the most well-to-do towns in the state. Encompassing four K-6 elementary schools, one junior high school, and one high school, the Mountain Brook School system has been repeatedly recognized for its excellence over the years, most recently being named a 2016 Distinguished District by the International Society for Technology in Education.

Vestavia Hills City School System, representing Vestavia Hills, another affluent suburb of Birmingham, ranks second on the list. The school district regularly exceeds standardized test proficiency standards and boasts a 95% graduation rate.

At #3 is the Homewood City School District, serving the Birmingham suburb, Homewood. A smaller district of three elementary schools , one middle school, and one high school, Homewood City School’s mission statement is “to educate and empower all students to maximize their unique potential.”

Fourth on the list is Madison City Schools based in Madison, a suburb of Huntsville. The district recently expanded, opening the brand new James Clemens High School in 2012.

Rounding out the top five is the Cullman City Board of Education, known as the first district in the state to enact a 1:1 Laptop Initiative, supplying all of its middle school and high school students with a laptop for educational use.

Top School Districts in Alabama, 2018

State RankSchool DistrictState
1Mountain Brook CityAlabama
2Vestavia Hills CityAlabama
3Homewood CityAlabama
4Madison CityAlabama
5Cullman CityAlabama
6Auburn CityAlabama
7Muscle Shoals CityAlabama
8Arab CityAlabama
9Hoover CityAlabama
10Trussville CityAlabama
11Hartselle CityAlabama
12Madison CountyAlabama
13Winfield CityAlabama
14Shelby CountyAlabama
15Enterprise CityAlabama
16Autauga CountyAlabama
17Guntersville CityAlabama
18Baldwin CountyAlabama
19Oxford CityAlabama
20Oneonta CityAlabama
21Andalusia CityAlabama
22Lauderdale CountyAlabama
23Cullman CountyAlabama
24Etowah CountyAlabama
25Jasper CityAlabama
26Pell CityAlabama
27Marion CountyAlabama
28Morgan CountyAlabama
29Dekalb CountyAlabama
30Pike CountyAlabama
31Jackson CountyAlabama
32Franklin CountyAlabama
33Huntsville CityAlabama
34St Clair CountyAlabama
35Athens CityAlabama
36Calhoun CountyAlabama
37Tuscaloosa CountyAlabama
38Cleburne CountyAlabama
39Dothan CityAlabama
40Lee CountyAlabama
41Boaz CityAlabama
42Florence CityAlabama
43Houston CountyAlabama
44Coffee CountyAlabama
45Covington CountyAlabama
46Scottsboro CityAlabama
47Elmore CountyAlabama
48Jefferson CountyAlabama
49Jacksonville CityAlabama
50Decatur CityAlabama
51Geneva CityAlabama
52Dale CountyAlabama
53Marshall CountyAlabama
54Sylacauga CityAlabama
55Limestone CountyAlabama
56Mobile CountyAlabama
57Blount CountyAlabama
58Brewton CityAlabama
59Chilton CountyAlabama
60Colbert CountyAlabama
61Lamar CountyAlabama
62Haleyville CityAlabama
63Talladega CountyAlabama
64Tuscumbia CityAlabama
65Piedmont CityAlabama
66Leeds CityAlabama
67Alexander CityAlabama
68Lawrence CountyAlabama
69Attalla CityAlabama
70Escambia CountyAlabama
71Opp CityAlabama
72Fort Payne CityAlabama
73Fayette CountyAlabama
74Walker CountyAlabama
75Cherokee CountyAlabama
76Winston CountyAlabama
77Clay CountyAlabama
78Opelika CityAlabama
79Albertville CityAlabama
80Russellville CityAlabama
81Tuscaloosa CityAlabama
82Ozark CityAlabama
83Demopolis CityAlabama
84Phenix CityAlabama
85Coosa CountyAlabama
86Tallapoosa CountyAlabama
87Bibb CountyAlabama
88Thomasville CityAlabama
89Montgomery CountyAlabama
90Tallassee CityAlabama
91Troy CityAlabama
92Henry CountyAlabama
93Geneva CountyAlabama
94Crenshaw CountyAlabama
95Hale CountyAlabama
96Russell CountyAlabama
97Gadsden CityAlabama
98Conecuh CountyAlabama
99Sheffield CityAlabama
100Butler CountyAlabama


The following contributed to the ranking: student performance (math and reading test scores), dropout rates, school funding, and area poverty rates. Data was collected from a total of 9,577 school districts.

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Top School Districts in Pennsylvania, 2018

As one of the first 13 U.S. colonies, and the home of Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were drafted, Pennsylvania has a long running legacy of direct involvement in American politic events. Today, the state ranks 11th in the nation in Pre-K-12 education, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Pennsylvania’s best school district is South Fayette Township School District, a small system of four schools serving the Pittsburgh suburb that lends it its name. The district has consistently exceeded statewide expectations of academic achievement, indicated by the high test scores achieved in all of South Fayette’s schools.

Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, serving parts of Chester and Delaware Counties, ranks #2. UCFSD’s achievements are remarkable; its students consistently test in the top 1% of Pennsylvania, and the graduation rate nears 100%.

Third in the ranking is Lower Merion School District of Montgomery County, PA. One of the wealthiest districts in both the state and country, overall, LMSD takes advantage of its generous funding by performing well in every academic measure.

Radnor Township School District ranks #4. The district has a reputation for academic excellence, with graduation rates regularly topping 98%.

Closing out Pennsylvania’s top five schools is Upper Dublin School District, a system of six schools that was the first in the state to receive K-12 paradigmatic accreditation through the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Top School Districts in Pennsylvania, 2018

State RankSchool DistrictState
1South Fayette Township SdPennsylvania
2Unionville-Chadds Ford SdPennsylvania
3Lower Merion SdPennsylvania
4Radnor Township SdPennsylvania
5Upper Dublin SdPennsylvania
6Tredyffrin-Easttown SdPennsylvania
7Colonial SdPennsylvania
8Central Bucks SdPennsylvania
9Perkiomen Valley SdPennsylvania
10Hampton Township SdPennsylvania
11Wallingford-Swarthmore SdPennsylvania
12Fox Chapel Area SdPennsylvania
13Upper Saint Clair SdPennsylvania
14Mt Lebanon SdPennsylvania
15Wissahickon SdPennsylvania
16Jenkintown SdPennsylvania
17New Hope-Solebury SdPennsylvania
18North Allegheny SdPennsylvania
19Lower Moreland Township SdPennsylvania
20Spring-Ford Area SdPennsylvania
21Haverford Township SdPennsylvania
22Rose Tree Media SdPennsylvania
23Garnet Valley SdPennsylvania
24Great Valley SdPennsylvania
25Downingtown Area SdPennsylvania
26Mars Area SdPennsylvania
27Owen J Roberts SdPennsylvania
28Peters Township SdPennsylvania
29Pine-Richland SdPennsylvania
30Hatboro-Horsham SdPennsylvania
31Springfield SdPennsylvania
32Quaker Valley SdPennsylvania
33York Suburban SdPennsylvania
34Methacton SdPennsylvania
35Quakertown Community SdPennsylvania
36Seneca Valley SdPennsylvania
37Franklin Regional SdPennsylvania
38Lewisburg Area SdPennsylvania
39West Chester Area SdPennsylvania
40Southern Lehigh SdPennsylvania
41Cheltenham Township SdPennsylvania
42Manheim Township SdPennsylvania
43Cumberland Valley SdPennsylvania
44North Penn SdPennsylvania
45Avonworth SdPennsylvania
46Abington Heights SdPennsylvania
47Springfield Township SdPennsylvania
48Wilson SdPennsylvania
49Penn-Trafford SdPennsylvania
50Souderton Area SdPennsylvania
51Palisades SdPennsylvania
52Phoenixville Area SdPennsylvania
53Marple Newtown SdPennsylvania
54State College Area SdPennsylvania
55Parkland SdPennsylvania
56Abington SdPennsylvania
57Council Rock SdPennsylvania
58Avon Grove SdPennsylvania
59Moon Area SdPennsylvania
60Upper Merion Area SdPennsylvania
61Saucon Valley SdPennsylvania
62West Jefferson Hills SdPennsylvania
63Dallas SdPennsylvania
64Derry Township SdPennsylvania
65Boyertown Area SdPennsylvania
66Norwin SdPennsylvania
67Harbor Creek SdPennsylvania
68Lampeter-Strasburg SdPennsylvania
69Canon-Mcmillan SdPennsylvania
70Beaver Area SdPennsylvania
71Central York SdPennsylvania
72Montour SdPennsylvania
73Hempfield SdPennsylvania
74Fairview SdPennsylvania
75Southern Fulton SdPennsylvania
76Kennett Consolidated SdPennsylvania
77Bethel Park SdPennsylvania
78Lower Dauphin SdPennsylvania
79Freeport Area SdPennsylvania
80West Allegheny SdPennsylvania
81Pennsbury SdPennsylvania
82Westmont Hilltop SdPennsylvania
83South Eastern SdPennsylvania
84Crestwood SdPennsylvania
85Manheim Central SdPennsylvania
86Penn-Delco SdPennsylvania
87Greater Latrobe SdPennsylvania
88Camp Hill SdPennsylvania
89Central Valley SdPennsylvania
90North Hills SdPennsylvania
91Riverview SdPennsylvania
92Dallastown Area SdPennsylvania
93South Park SdPennsylvania
94Pennridge SdPennsylvania
95Mechanicsburg Area SdPennsylvania
96Delaware Valley SdPennsylvania
97Neshannock Township SdPennsylvania
98Nazareth Area SdPennsylvania
99Exeter Township SdPennsylvania
100Hermitage SdPennsylvania


The following contributed to the ranking: student performance (math and reading test scores), dropout rates, school funding, and area poverty rates. Data was collected from a total of 9,577 school districts.

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Top School Districts in Rhode Island, 2018

The nation’s smallest state performs excellently in public education, ranking #9 nationwide in Pre-K-12 education based on the most recent survey by U.S. News & World Report. Many excellent school districts are based within Rhode Island’s modest borders.

Rhode Island’s best district is Barrington Public Schools, a system of six schools based in the suburban community of Barrington, RI. All of Barrington’s schools rank among the best in the state, and Barrington High School was awarded a gold medal by U.S. News & World Report, placing it with the best public high schools in the nation.

Ranking #2 in Rhode Island is East Greenwich School District, comprising four elementaries, one middle school, and one high school. East Greenwich High School was the only high school in the state to be ranked in the top 500 in Newsweek’s 2016 ranking of the nation’s best high schools.

Third on the list is South Kingston School District, a system of nine schools located in Wakefield, RI. The district’s Peace Dale Elementary School received a National Blue Ribbon Award in 2016 through the U.S. Department of Education, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a school in the country.

#4 Narragansett School System is a district comprising one elementary school, middle school and one high school. Every school in the district meets or exceeds state proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.

Rounding out Rhode Island’s top five is Chariho Regional School District, a high performing system of schools serving Charlestown, Richmond, and Hopkinton, RI.

Top School Districts in Rhode Island, 2018

State RankSchool DistrictState
1BarringtonRhode Island
2East GreenwichRhode Island
3South KingstownRhode Island
4NarragansettRhode Island
5CharihoRhode Island
6PortsmouthRhode Island
7North KingstownRhode Island
8North SmithfieldRhode Island
9SmithfieldRhode Island
10Exeter-West GreenwichRhode Island
11LincolnRhode Island
12WesterlyRhode Island
13CumberlandRhode Island
14ScituateRhode Island
15TivertonRhode Island
16Bristol WarrenRhode Island
17CoventryRhode Island
18MiddletownRhode Island
19Foster-GlocesterRhode Island
20WarwickRhode Island
21JohnstonRhode Island
22CranstonRhode Island
23BurrillvilleRhode Island
24East ProvidenceRhode Island
25NewportRhode Island
26North ProvidenceRhode Island
27West WarwickRhode Island
28PawtucketRhode Island
29WoonsocketRhode Island
30Central FallsRhode Island
31ProvidenceRhode Island


The following contributed to the ranking: student performance (math and reading test scores), dropout rates, school funding, and area poverty rates. Data was collected from a total of 9,577 school districts.

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Top School Districts in Maryland, 2018

Maryland’s public school districts compare very favorably with those of the rest of the nation, ranking 16th overall in Pre-K education by U.S. News & World Report. As one of the thirteen original colonies, the state has had a long time to develop its standard of excellent public education.

The #1 ranked district in Maryland is the Howard County Public School System, based in Columbia, Maryland and serving the communities of the county that lends it its name. The large district of 76 schools boasts an impressive graduation rate of 93.2%.

Worcester County Public Schools, a district of 14 schools in Worcester County, MD, places second in the ranking. Along with the academic achievements of its students, the faculty and staff of its schools have also earned recognition, including Pocomoke High School Principal Annette Wallace, who was named Maryland’s 2016 High School Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Third on the list is Calvert County Public Schools, a district of 23 schools based in the system’s namesake county consistently ranking among the best in the state in academic achievement.

Maryland’s #4 district is Montgomery County Public Schools, the largest in the state and 14th largest in the U.S., with over 205 schools. MCPS’s excellence was recognized in 2010, when it was the recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Closing out Maryland’s top five is Carroll County Public Schools, another very large district with over 26,500 students. CCPS’s schools consistently achieve test scores comfortably above nation and statewide averages.

Top School Districts in Maryland, 2018

State RankSchool DistrictState
1Howard County Public SchoolsMaryland
2Worcester County Public SchoolsMaryland
3Calvert County Public SchoolsMaryland
4Montgomery County Public SchoolsMaryland
5Carroll County Public SchoolsMaryland
6Anne Arundel County Public SchoolsMaryland
7Harford County Public SchoolsMaryland
8Frederick County Public SchoolsMaryland
9Queen Anne'S County Public SchoolsMaryland
10St. Mary'S County Public SchoolsMaryland
11Baltimore County Public SchoolsMaryland
12Washingtion County Public SchoolsMaryland
13Charles County Public SchoolsMaryland
14Caroline County Public SchoolsMaryland
15Garrett County Public SchoolsMaryland
16Allegany County Public SchoolsMaryland
17Cecil County Public SchoolsMaryland
18Talbot County Public SchoolsMaryland
19Wicomico County Public SchoolsMaryland
20Kent County Public SchoolsMaryland
21Prince George'S County Public SchoolsMaryland
22Somerset County Public SchoolsMaryland
23Dorchester County Public SchoolsMaryland
24Baltimore City Public SchoolsMaryland


The following contributed to the ranking: student performance (math and reading test scores), dropout rates, school funding, and area poverty rates. Data was collected from a total of 9,577 school districts.

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The Best (and Worst) Dating Scenes in the U.S. 2018


Valentine’s Day is around the corner; a holiday that can be a hard time for any single person. Television is inundated with images of happy couples, and store aisles are stocked with heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and sappy greeting cards. If you can’t take the thought of spending another February 14th by your lonesome, perhaps it’s time to step out and try your luck in your local dating scene. Sure, it can be daunting, especially if it’s been a while since your last date, or your city or town isn’t exactly the optimal environment for finding a match.

In order to find out which U.S. cities are the best for dating, we’ve analyzed 102 of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States in a number of categories most relevant to starry-eyed hopefuls. Our ranking is based on:

  • Safety (a score calculated using the latest FBI crime data and CDC STD infection rate statistics)
  • Availability (based on the percentage of single women in a given city, which we consider a better indicator of dating opportunity than the percentage of single men or single people in general and taken from U.S. census data)
  • Affordability (judged by comparing the average cost of a three-course meal for two at an inexpensive restaurant in each city from data)
  • Density of nightlife options (based on a blog post with a comprehensive list of the number of bars per 10,000 inhabitants in a large swath of U.S. cities)

Let’s take a look at the findings...

The Best Dating Scenes in the U.S.

1. San Francisco, California

San Francisco, California comes in at #1 due to a whopping 16.5 bars per 10K, more than any other city on the list, and a considerable 44.70% share of the female population being single, a higher ratio than any other. Despite its reputation as an extremely costly cityin which to live, represented here by the average restaurant meal price of $75, the second highest average price overall, the density of nightlife options and ubiquity of singles make San Fran’s dating scene an excellent one.

2. Reno, Nevada

You might be surprised by Reno, Nevada, coming in at #2 on the list. Famous for its hotels, casinos, and being sort of a mini-Las Vegas, Reno’s high ratio of single women, above-average safety and density of bars render the mid-sized city rife with opportunities for singles to find their match.

3. Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon places at #3. The Pacific Northwestern hipster mecca--known for its rainy weather, offbeat charm, scores of cafes and coffee shops, and being lampooned on IFC’s Portlandia sketch show—ranks high due to low crime and STD rates, affordable restaurant prices and high density of bars.

4. Omaha, Nebraska

Just behind Portland is Omaha, Nebraska, the largest city in the state. Omaha offers affordability and a good concentration of nightlife options, while boasting low crime numbers and STD rates.

5. Las Vegas, Nevada

Rounding out the top five is Las Vegas, scoring high due to its 12.8 bars per 10,000 inhabitants, inexpensive meal prices, and high % of single women. “Sin City” may get a little rowdy, and its reputation for encouraging vice of all forms may be off putting to some, but Vegas certainly has much opportunity for singles.

The rest of the top ten are Madison, Wisconsin (#6), a thriving college town with a high safety score and a ton of bars, New Orleans (#7), the famous culinary and cultural capital of Louisiana that makes up for its high crime and STD rates with a wealth of dining and drinking options and a high ratio of singles, Lincoln, Nebraska (#8), a clean, safe Midwestern city with affordable restaurant prices, Billings, Montana (#9), a mid-sized city surrounded by mountains with a very low cost of living and low crime rates, and Seattle, Washington (#10) with its many bars, high ratio of single women, and low crime rates. Seattle is brought down only by its relatively expensive dining and entertainment costs.

The Worst Dating Scenes in the U.S.

Other cities did not fare so well. The bottom five worst cities for dating earned their unimpressive positions for a number of reasons. Stockton, California (#98) ranks low due to a unimpressive ratio of single women, expensive restaurants, and a low density of nightlife options. Just below it is Anchorage, Alaska (#99), whose cardinal sins are high crime rates, high STD infection rates, and somewhat expensive dining out prices. Number 100 on the list is Wilmington, Delaware, a city that fails to impress in any category, with its rather high rate of violent crime being the most discouraging characteristic.

Next-to last-in the ranking is Little Rock, Arkansas, a city with a low % of singles, a scarcity of nightlife destinations, and a high rate of violent crime. Finally, coming at last, overall, is Memphis, Tennessee. The position is unfortunate considering the city’s well-earned reputation for being one of the most important cities for soul, the blues and rock n’ roll, yet the city’s grimly high rates of violent crime and STD infections are too much to compensate for.

Where did your city fall on the list? Do you agree or disagree with its placing? This ranking is meant to be fun and informative, but if your city ranks low among others, don’t let it discourage you: there’s always hope of finding the right partner no matter which part of the country you find yourself.

A closer look at the dating data...

RankCityStatePopulationViolent crimes per 1KAdjusted STD Rate per 1K% of Single WomenPrice for Meal, $$Bars per 10K
1San FranciscoCalifornia871,1557.116.7244.70%7516.5
5Las VegasNevada1,592,1788.496.4137.00%5012.8
7New OrleansLouisiana397,20810.709.2439.10%5913.6
12San JoseCalifornia1,041,8443.734.2333.30%38.66.5
14WarwickRhode Island81,4810.754.5433.30%506.5
16San DiegoCalifornia1,413,4143.776.6535.20%609.2
20CharlestonSouth Carolina135,1533.026.8832.80%53.58.5
23New YorkNew York8,566,9175.736.0039.80%77.59
24FargoNorth Dakota121,2173.855.3630.90%47.57.3
26San AntonioTexas1,498,6427.187.5631.50%358.1
27Savannah-Chatham Georgia241,2964.877.3534.20%609.1
33Long BeachCalifornia476,4765.976.5437.70%52.56.5
36St. PetersburgFlorida259,5106.655.5935.80%506.5
38El PasoTexas687,1933.906.1328.40%406.9
40Los AngelesCalifornia4,007,9057.196.5437.70%607.2
47Des MoinesIowa211,5017.084.6629.90%506.9
50St. PaulMinnesota303,9206.485.1232.40%505.9
54Santa AnaCalifornia337,4194.786.5431.60%556.5
55Corpus ChristiTexas327,9487.106.1331.60%466.1
60BuffaloNew York257,44611.106.6634.60%557.4
61Jersey CityNew Jersey266,1794.796.0032.30%656.5
62Fort WorthTexas851,8495.265.5528.90%455.1
63WashingtonDistrict of Columbia681,17011.323.9136.20%656.3
66San BernardinoCalifornia217,30313.245.2729.60%356.5
67Oklahoma CityOklahoma641,6817.836.9731.40%405.2
68Colorado SpringsColorado464,1134.965.9027.80%556.4
74Louisville MetroKentucky683,8256.766.7732.90%504.7
76ManchesterNew Hampshire110,3536.722.8129.80%756.4
78Virginia BeachVirginia453,0171.559.1730.70%605.9
79Fort WayneIndiana261,6423.976.1330.40%503.8
81Salt Lake CityUtah193,9189.363.5828.50%504.8
82NewarkNew Jersey281,4509.376.0032.30%504.7
84AlbuquerqueNew Mexico561,56011.127.3036.80%453.6
87Charlotte-MecklenburgNorth Carolina896,3797.327.0730.80%555.2
90St. LouisMissouri314,50719.136.9232.90%508
91Kansas CityMissouri478,36416.556.4431.60%507.1
95Baton RougeLouisiana228,3899.388.1832.90%604.7
96CharlestonWest Virginia49,42915.522.9130.50%452.9
101Little RockArkansas198,80015.316.7830.70%452.8


We created this ranking to assess how major metropolitan areas in the United States compare in a number of categories important to singles active in the dating scene. A total of 102 metropolitan areas were scrutinized: the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. by population according to the latest FBI crime statistics, along with additional cities added in order to ensure that each U.S. state was represented. A number of cities were excluded due to a significant lack of pertinent data. Several data sources were used, including FBI crime data, CDC STD rate data, U.S. census data, (for average meal prices) and a blog post listing bars per 10,000 inhabitants in a large number of U.S. metropolitan areas. An overall ranking by dating scene score was calculated using a number of variables, including safety (violent crime rates & STD infection rates), availability (% of single women), affordability (average price of a dinner for two at an inexpensive restaurant) and nightlife options (bars per 10,000).

Guide to Addiction Recovery and Rehab Centers

Many of us help ourselves to a glass of wine or two (or three) or smoke a little pot after coming home from a stressful day at work. Letting loose with a little bit of our substance of choice allows us to destress and unwind after a hectic day. Drinking also aids people in relaxing before or during high pressure social events and intimidating first dates.

But when does responsible use cross over into abuse, followed by addiction? It can be a slippery slope, happening gradually without one even noticing. Two drinks at the end of the day becomes four, five or more until it begins affecting your work and relationships with friends and loved ones. Eventually, one may feel trapped and consumed by a reliance on alcohol or other drugs, without a means of escape.

Yet, there’s always a way out. This guide was put together for those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, as well as their loved ones. It includes information on how to recognize if you or someone you know has a problem, and includes information on treatment centers and a variety of other options in treating addiction.

Recognizing Addiction

Is addiction a disease?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as “a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences.”

So yes, addiction IS a disease like any other, and not one to be ashamed of. Fortunately, like other diseases, treatment is available for those who seek it out. The first step is recognizing that there is a problem.

Do I, or my loved ones suffer, from addiction?

Many of us go through periods of overindulgence. The difference is that most people are able to recognize their periodic overuse of alcohol and drugs and pull back, while those suffering addiction are unwilling or unable to stop.

Behaviors characteristic of addiction include:

  • Physical changes, such as weight gain, weight loss. Skin problems, like edema or psoriasis. Withdrawal symptoms such as shaky hands, insomnia or flu-like symptoms.

  • Increase in dosage or consumption in order to achieve the desired effect.

  • Pulling away from social obligations and relationships.

  • Risky behavior, such as driving under the influence or putting oneself in dangerous situations in order to obtain drugs.

  • Using in secret, at inappropriate times. Hiding drugs and alcohol away from others.

If you or someone you know displays one or more of these behaviors, there may be a problem with addiction.

Is there a difference between abuse and addiction?

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation differentiates between abuse and addiction by stating that while abuse involves a pattern of drinking and/or drug use that affects one’s performance at work or school which can damage relationships with friends and family, addiction is characterized by the inability to quit, or cut down on consumption.

The difference is that someone that is abusing drugs or alcohol may be able to recognize their behavior and cut down without outside intervention or treatment, whereas someone suffering from addiction cannot.

When is it time to get help for addiction?

It is often said that one must hit “rock bottom” before seeking treatment for addiction. This is a myth. It is possible to look for help and treatment without hitting some fabled low point. Here are some signs it’s time to seek treatment for a possible addiction:

  • No longer able to control use.

  • Loss of interest in other activities and obligations.

  • Use of drugs and alcohol having serious financial ramifications.

  • Stealing or engaging in other risky behavior to procure drugs or money for drugs.

The consequences of not getting help for addiction

The dangers and ultimate consequences of not seeking treatment are very real. Millions suffer the effects of addiction, either their own or of others around them each year, and many more succumb to the illness.

Encouraging others to seek help

If your friend, family member or partner is exhibiting behavior characteristic of addiction, it can be really hard to broach the subject with them, especially if the person is unwilling to stop or even acknowledge that they have a problem. The fact that they are often under the influence of substances only exacerbates the difficulty. Picking the right time and place to bring it up is an important decision and can determine whether the person agrees to get help, or responds negatively to your pleas.

Choosing the right strategy

Alcohol and drug use can cause people to behave erratically, and even violently, if they hear something that they do not want to hear. Spontaneously confronting someone about their addiction can backfire, result in violent encounters and precipitate more drug and alcohol abuse. The best approach is to gather support and plan an intervention.

Planning and staging an intervention

The Mayo Clinic outlines certain steps in putting together and having a successful intervention. These are:

  1. Planning. The initiator of the intervention should speak to family or friends that they think would be willing to contribute and participate. Next, it is highly recommended that they seek the advice and expertise of a qualified counselor or addiction specialist to ensure that the intervention is staged in a manner that best ensures a positive outcome.

  2. Collating information. Members of the intervention group get together and discuss the addiction sufferer’s problem, the extent of their drug or alcohol use, and how their use has affected them personally. Steps may be made to contact a treatment center.

  3. Forming a group. Now it’s time to decide who will participate in the actual intervention. It isn’t necessary for everyone involved in the planning of the intervention to take part in the actual event. If someone feels that their presence could hurt the chances of the intervention being successful, or personally don’t feel comfortable or safe, that’s okay. Once it’s settled on who will be there, decide on which role(s) each group member will take.

  4. Agreeing on consequences and organizing thoughts and comments. Each member of the group should write down experiences they’ve had where the addict’s behavior hurt or harmed them, or times where they’ve witnessed the addict’s drug or alcohol abuse cause self-harm. Then everyone must come to an agreement on the consequences of their loved one refusing to accept help at the end of the intervention.

  5. Staging the intervention. It is important to lure the person to the site of the intervention without indicating what is about to take place. Optimally, the person will not actively be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but depending on the severity of the problem, this may be difficult to achieve. Once the intervention is underway, each member will take turns confronting the person with their planned remarks and stories, followed by the agreed upon consequences they will take if the addict does not accept the terms. Do not make declarations that you cannot follow through with.

  6. Aftermath. The work of an intervention does not end after one has accepted treatment. Attempts at remain clean are most successful when those close to the person make a sincere effort in assisting their loved one stay the course. Attend counseling with them, or spend time doing activities that serve as alternatives to using drugs and alcohol.


Those that suffer from a severe dependence to drugs and alcohol are encouraged to do a stint in an in-patient treatment center utilizing a step-by-step approach to detoxification and counseling towards a life without drugs or alcohol. However, there are alternative methods of treatment that have been known to work for some. Best to know the options before deciding what is right for you or your loved one.

Inpatient rehabilitation centers

Anyone with a severe dependence on drugs and alcohol is best served by completing a four week inpatient program. Living in a controlled environment where the patient undergoes a step-by-step process that best ensures that they successfully detox from their drug of choice and participate in counseling that prepares them for a life after addiction.

Not all drug rehabilitation centers are created equally, however, and making the decision to check into one requires a bit of research, either for the patient himself or loved ones involved in the process. There’s a wide variance in pricing, from relatively affordable centers to those available only to the rich and famous.

What’s more, certain rehabs cater to specific age groups, genders, and lifestyles. Methodology can change from center to center, as well, even if the basic elements remain in place. Let’s take a look at the details.

Cost and funding

A thirty day stay in a drug treatment center can range from $2000 at a publicly funded center to as much as $90,000 at the high end, resort-like centers in exotic locations with large swimming pools frequented by wealthy celebrities. The median fee typically falls between $20,000 to $30,000, although depending on the patient’s insurance, this cost can be significantly reduced. Many major insurance carriers, including Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield, will provide full or partial coverage, depending on the facility.

Alcoholics and drug addicts often lack the funds to cover the considerable expense of an inpatient treatment center, or lack health insurance. For those in this category, a state-funded rehab that uses government money to pay for its services is the best--and sometimes only--option.

Duration of stay

While a stay of 28-30 days is the most common period of inpatient treatment, the amount of time necessary for recovery can vary greatly depending on the needs of the person. At the short end, there are those that stay just five days to a week in order to detox and clear their heads.

On the other end, patients or their loved ones may feel they require a much longer stay in order to build the healthy habits necessary in order to maintain a life of sobriety on the outside. Extended in-patient programs can range from 60 days to as long as six months.

Certain rehab centers offer regimented and specific schedules, whereas others allow patients to stay for as long as they feel is appropriate. The time that one spends at a rehab facility depends on the severity of the addiction and the resources available to the individual. Though, one thing is for certain: there is no such thing as an overstaying at an in-patient program. The recovery process is a vital time for healing and should not be rushed.


Before a patient can begin their stay at a treatment center, the person must undergo a detoxification process to rid themselves of the physical dependency to the drug. According to, medically supervised detox is highly recommended for those dependent on alcohol, benzodiazepine or opiates as withdrawal from these drugs can be physically taxing or even fatal.

However, this type of monitored detox is not always necessary and the process can even be done in an outpatient situation. Once the detox is finished, the patient may move into the treatment center to begin the program.


Inpatient treatment centers use a combination of therapy and (if necessary) pharmaceutical treatment to help a patient recover from addiction. states that the most often used form of therapy is behavioral therapy, a three-pronged approach of individual, family, and group therapy.

Patients will often have a highly regimented schedule of various therapy sessions, along with time for recreation, exercise and other activities. High-end facilities offer services that are nearly indistinguishable from those of a resort or spa, including massage, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and golf.

A majority of treatment centers will have no limit on how long one can stay, as long as the checks clear. Nor do they disallow anyone from leaving early; part of the recovery process is the feeling of willing participation.

After four weeks (or however long is necessary), the patient receives clearance from the team of professionals, and if they feel ready, they can move out and carry on their recovery in the outside world.

Twelve-Step Programs

Twelve-step programs are an age old method of recovering from addiction and other compulsive behavior based on a set of guidelines first meted out in the book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism (1939).

Alcoholics Anonymous (the first twelve-step program) and others of its ilk work by urging the addiction sufferer to admit that they are powerless over a substance or dangerous behavior, and can only begin recovery through acceptance of a higher power, followed by making amends to those they harmed while in the throes of addiction.

Twelve-step programs remain highly popular as a means of addiction treatment, despite the fact that the American Society of Medicine found that only around 10% of people that participate in them recover. Though, other publications and studies report much higher success rates.


In the 21st century, many experts find twelve-step programs to be an outdated and anachronistic method of treatment for addiction. The heavy focus on spirituality and religion (7 of the 12 steps mention a higher power) and severe attitude towards those who relapse has drawn criticism from psychologists and addiction experts.

As detailed in this Atlantic article, those in the field are more likely to recommend a personalized approach to treatment that caters to the specific needs of the patient, rather than the catch-all approach of AA and other twelve-step programs.

Due to the fact that alcohol abuse and dependence is a sliding scale, and is often coupled with other mental disorders, different treatment regimens work for different people. Nowadays, medication is often prescribed in tandem with therapy and has been shown to increase the likelihood of success.

Medical treatment

For certain drugs that result in strong physical dependence, particularly opioids and alcohol, medications are frequently used in conjunction with therapy in addiction treatment.

Methadone and Suboxone

Methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) has long been used to treat severe heroin and opioid addiction, both in treatment centers and specialized clinics. Methadone is a mild opioid without the strong euphoric properties and risk of overuse characteristic of heroin (particularly since it is administered in a controlled setting). It is taken orally rather than intravenously, lessening the likelihood of abuse and overdose.

A study by the Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences offers proof that MMT is successful in combating severe heroin and opiate addiction, as well as in decreasing the likelihood of patients engaging in risky behavior such as needle sharing.

Yet, methadone comes with its own risks, accounting for 3,301 deaths in the US in 2015. In 2002, Suboxone (a mixture of buprenorphine and naloxone) was approved by the FDA in the treatment of opioid dependence. This drug does not activate the opioid receptors in the brain to the degree of heroin or methadone, so its effects come on moderately and reach a steady plateau. This makes it easy for patients to wean off the drug without experiencing significant withdrawal symptoms.

Medication for alcohol dependence

A number of drugs are prescribed in conjunction with or in lieu of inpatient or outpatient programs for treatment of alcohol addiction. Despite not being as well-known as twelve-step programs, their use is increasing, and doctors claim they are safe and often effective medications.

  • Antabuse (disulfiram) is the oldest drug on the market prescribed to curb cravings for alcohol. It acts by inhibiting the action of an enzyme active in processing alcohol, resulting in unpleasant hangover effects immediately after a small amount of alcohol is consumed.

  • Naltrexone is a much newer drug on the market that is used to manage alcohol abuse by blocking the positive effects of alcohol, lowering the person’s desire to continue drinking. The drug has also been used in the treatment of opioid dependency.

  • Acamprosate is the newest drug available for treating alcohol dependence. It works in a similar manner to naltrexone by reducing the positive reinforcement effects associated with drinking, while curbing withdrawal symptoms. It is most effective when used in conjunction with counseling.

Alternative treatments

In addition to FDA-approved and time-honored methods of treating addiction and dependence such as inpatient centers, twelve-step programs and pharmaceuticals, there are a handful of alternatives that haven’t had a lot of clinical research done on them, but have proven effective for many.

Ibogaine treatment

Ibogaine is a psychoactive drug found and used in traditional ceremonies in Central Africa. The drug puts the user in a hallucinogenic state for up to thirty hours. According to American Addiction Centers, ibogaine is converted into a compound called noribogaine when ingested, attacking and rewiring areas of the brain responsible for addictive behavior.

It is claimed that Ibogaine eases withdrawal symptoms and cravings for a host of drugs, including alcohol, opiates, methamphetamine, and others. There has not been a lot of clinical study done on the efficacy of ibogaine in treating addiction and the drug is illegal in the United States. Those hoping to try ibogaine to quell their addiction must go visit a treatment center in Canada or elsewhere.

Ayahuasca treatment

A strong hallucinogen usually administered in a tea, ayahuasca has been claimed to be an effective treatment for drug addiction. Said to work in a similar fashion as ibogaine by “rewiring” the brain’s addiction and pleasure centers, ayahuasca trips are intense, and occasionally traumatic experiences. There are first-person testimonials praising its use in treating addiction, though there is little clinical research available on its use in this fashion. Like, ibogaine, the drug is illegal in the U.S., spurring many take trips to countries in South America home to shaman-run ayahuasca retreats.


Kratom is an herb derived from the leaves of a Southeast Asian tree with both opiate and stimulant-like properties. It is available for purchase in various concentrations in the United States on the internet and at head shops. Used in traditional medicine for at least 200 years, it has recently caught on as a substitute for opioids in treating chronic pain as well as a method of cutting down or quitting heavy opioids or heroin.

In fact, a recent survey found that around 70% of those using kratom were doing so for this purpose. Again, like other substances on this list, little official research on its effectiveness exists at this time, and it carries its own risk of abuse, but many swear by it. For those that have exhausted other approaches, or aren’t ready to invest in a rehab stay, it’s worth a shot.

Using cannabis and its derivatives to wean off of opiates

With the nation suffering at the hands of an opioid epidemic, many are turning to alternative sources to combat their pain and treat their dependence on dangerous drugs. With the increase in states legalizing or decriminalizing cannabis use for medicinal and recreation purposes, many find the drug to be an effective and less habit-forming alternative. CBD (cannabidiol) is a derivative of cannabis lacking the euphoric effects of THC that is proven to block opioid receptors in the brain, and many have begun to use it for this purpose.

Rapid detox

Rapid detox is a process combining heavy sedation and the administration of certain drugs to rapidly detox a patient, ridding them of opioid dependence and withdrawal symptoms within a matter of days. However, the treatment has resulted in a number of fatalities and the medical world at large has concluded that it just isn’t safe. Use of this treatment has been discouraged and it is no longer widely practiced.

Quitting cold turkey

Quitting “cold turkey” refers to quitting a substance without pharmaceutical or therapeutic assistance. It is still occasionally recommended as a means of quitting smoking, but for heavier drugs, the practice has a low success rate and is not encouraged.


Daily meditation has been shown to rewire the brain’s neural connections, and is a great component in a well-rounded approach to treating addiction, but should be used in combination with other methods of treatment.

Food addiction and treatment

Drug and alcohol are not the only types of addiction people in the United States suffer from. In fact, more people than ever are afflicted with food addiction or some related disorder. In 2017, obesity and related conditions became the number one cause of preventable death in the country.

It may not be as easy to recognize the effects of food addiction and overeating as easy as in certain types of drug addiction, but like any other form of addiction, the consequences of food addiction can be serious and life threatening.

  • Heart disease.

  • High cholesterol.

  • Loss of mobility.

  • Sleep apnea.

  • Stroke.

  • Type 2 diabetes.

The Eating Recovery Center is the best online resource for those suffering from food addiction and other eating disorders. They’ll help you identify your problematic behavior and direct you to the type of care you need, or a specific treatment center, if necessary.

Facts and figures

How many people require addiction treatment in the United States?

According to the latest data from the SAMHSA conducted National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), around 21 million people over the age of 12 required treatment for substance abuse in 2016. However, only 3.8 million people in that age group (1.4% of the population) actually received some form of treatment. 2.2 million received treatment in a specialty facility (i.e. inpatient rehab center).

Of those categorized by the NSDUH as “needing” treatment (those diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder), only about 10% sought treatment in a specialty facility.

How successful are treatment centers? What is the relapse rate?

It’s difficult to arrive at a precise number regarding relapses, but the NIDA reports that 40% to 60% of those that undergo treatment for drug and alcohol addiction experience some type of relapse. Relapsing is not a death sentence: recovering from addiction is a lifetime struggle and one should not give up in the face of a one-time or temporary slip-up.

How many treatment centers are there in the U.S., per state?

The 2017 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services reports that there are 14,166 total treatment facilities in the United States. Of these, around 8,000 are private non-profit centers, 4,000 for-profit facilities and over 2,000 state sponsored centers financed by state or federal agencies. However, only 20% of these are inpatient treatment centers, with the rest being outpatient and serving the great majority of those seeking treatment.

What are the top rehab centers in the U.S.? has a list of the top rehab centers in the United States. The ratings are based on overall success rate and a number of other criteria.

How much does the government spend on drug treatment?

According to the latest 2018 budget report, the federal government spend $9.85 billion on drug abuse treatment in 2016, which is 36.6% percent of the total spent on “drug control” in that fiscal year. This nearly matches the $9.28 spent on domestic law enforcement of drug laws. A further $1.49 billion was spent on drug use prevention.

Living a sober life after treatment

Sober living homes

For those that have completed a treatment program but still feel they need additional support in their daily lives, there are sober living homes. Sober living homes are different than rehabs in that inhabitants are free to come and go as they wish, pay rent, and buy food for themselves.

There are certain conditions for living in these homes. Residents must lead a sober life, never bring intoxicants into the premises and agree to occasional drug tests. Some homes may require residents to attend regular twelve-step meetings in order to stay. Overall, sober living homes are a great means for recovering addicts and alcoholics to ease back into normal life.

SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training)

SMART is a support program for recovering addicts that serves as a popular alternative to traditional twelve-step programs. It specializes in helping recovering addicts in the long term management of cravings and desires. In contrast to the twelve-step programs’ central ethos of confessing powerlessness, SMART’s 4-point program focuses on empowerment and building strength and motivation.

Dealing with relapse

Even when recovering addicts do their best to stay on track and remain sober, relapses can and do happen. The NIDA estimates that 40% to 60% of recovering addicts and alcoholics will experience one or more periods of relapse. Yet, a relapse does not mean that all the work towards living a sober life has been negated. Recovery is a continual process and a relapse is only a temporary setback. has a useful page on what to do in case of relapse. They suggest that continuous relapses indicate the need for a person to admit themselves back into an inpatient treatment program. Relapsing also suggests certain behavioral or mental health issues at the core of the substance abuse have not been dealt with. Often, cognitive behavioral therapy can help patients to analyze and eliminate the kind of thinking that leads to bad decisions and substance abuse.

Resources for addicts and family members of addicts

Al-Anon and Alateen

  • Al-Anon and Alateen are associated programs offering support to friends and family members of persons suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. The group isn’t focused on getting help for addicts, but rather for assisting those that have lived with or around those with a problem. Local chapters worldwide regularly hold meetings where small groups (no more than twenty-five) can discuss the traumas associated with living with alcoholics and addicts.

  • The best website for finding a rehab facility that will work for you or your loved one. Their expansive database has treatment centers in all fifty states that offer treatment and counseling for all manner of addictions, including alcohol, opioids, cocaine, and others. They also offer advice on the steps to take when you feel it is time to seek treatment.

  • The website for two of the most trusted and long running treatment centers in the United States, Hazelden and the Betty Ford Center, that combined in 2014. Together, Hazelden Betty Ford is the largest non-profit treatment organization in the nation. The site is a source of information for all aspects of addiction. They provide help and resources for families, including how to recognize when someone close to you is suffering from addiction. For those seeking treatment at one of their many inpatient and outpatient centers, the site is easy to use and quite useful.

  • Another great online resource providing educational material on recognizing abuse and addiction, 24/7 online counseling and online admission for all of the treatment centers affiliated with American Addiction Centers.

  • The website for the National Institute on Drug Abuse. A top source for all of the latest drug abuse and addiction related clinical studies and statistics. Provides resources for those looking for treatment, as well as those interested in participating in a study.

  • A family of associated of treatment centers focused on treating alcohol, drug and food addiction with information and guidance on how to join one of their many facilities all over the U.S.


Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson

  • A harrowing collection of short stories centered on the misadventures of an unnamed narrator and a collection of hard drinking, drug addled misfits. Jesus’ Son perfectly captures the feelings of hopelessness and frozen time characteristic of addiction. Johnson, who died in 2017, spent his twenties as a drug addict and alcoholic before getting clean and devoting his life to writing acclaimed novels and short stories.

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola

  • Hepola’s memoir recounts her years attempting to balance her life as a successful writer in Manhattan with an all consuming desire for nightlife and alcohol. She often drinks to the point of blackout, finding herself in dangerous situations and waking up in strange places with no memory of the night before. An unflinching and relatable memoir for anyone who has struggled with abuse and addiction.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

  • A massive, sprawling tome of over 1,000 pages. What gets lost in the discussion of DFW’s opus is the fact that it contains some of the rawest, uncensored and life-like depictions of drug addiction and life in treatment facilities found in fiction.


SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP

  • A free and confidential information service open all hours of the day, every day of the year, SAMHSA’s helpline specializing in transferring addicts to local support services so they can find the treatment they need.

The Recovery Village’s Addiction and Alcohol Hotline, 1-888-751-3362

  • Another toll-free 24 hour hotline that specializes in counseling alcoholics in finding appropriate treatment.

Message boards


  • Reddit’s active addiction message board. An excellent source for addicts and recovering addicts of all stripes to seek advice and share stories of addiction and recovery.

Addiction Recovery Guide Message Board

  • A fairly active board for those to share their stories of drug abuse and seeking treatment. The message board is broken up to separate sections for each particular drug and includes a board for other non alcohol or drug related addictions and one for family members of addicts.

Sober Recovery Forums

  • A large online community of over 150K engaging in discussion in an extensive number of forums covering a broad number of topics related to addiction. Members of the community can seek advice, debate the best methods of treatment, tell jokes and anecdotes related to addiction and recovery, and much more.



  • SoberTool is an app available for iOS and Android that allows you to mark the days since you’ve been clean and sober, as well as keep track of the estimated money you’ve saved by not buying drugs and alcohol.


  • Nomo is a useful multifaceted app for recovering addictions that, in addition to tracking your sobriety and money saved, allows you to get in touch with other users to build your own support group and grants awards for reaching milestones. Nomo boasts over 100,000 users and is rapidly growing.

Pear reSET

  • The first FDA approved app for treatment of addiction (or any disease) developed by Pear Therapeutics, Pear reSET is unique in that the app is only available via prescription. The app is a comprehensive, personally specialized 12 week program with lessons and regular check-ins.


  • Meditation is a great practice and an effective means of treating the cravings and depressive moods that come along with recovery. An app is a great way to track your meditation progress, and Headspace is one of the most popular. After a ten day free trial, membership to the app costs $7.99 a month. Headspace offers guided and issue-specific meditations.

Safest and Most Dangerous Countries for Travel

The world is smaller than ever before. Cheapening costs, the unprecedented ease of communication and spread of information complements of the internet and social media, (relative) global peace and competition for the most striking, exotic Instagram posts have all contributed to a dramatic surge in international travel in recent years.

International tourist arrivals hit a record 1.2 billion in 2015, the sixth year in a row to see growth in the category, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. As travel to countries once considered remote and mysterious, such as Vietnam or Burma, has grown increasingly common, the buildup of tourist infrastructure, i.e., hostels, pizza restaurants, homestays, and internet cafes to accommodate the emergent hordes of young backpackers and capitalize on the profit potential, has boomed in tandem. Travel destinations that once felt daring and adventurous now seem mundane and overly congested with likeminded, wanderlust-stricken millennials.

Consequentially, more and more travelers are hoofing it to far-flung, distant locales off the well-trodden backpacker itinerary in search of novel experiences and interaction with alien cultures. In essence, there’s nothing wrong with this, but the bottom line is that there are some countries that people just shouldn’t visit as the potential dangers are just too great. On the opposite side of the spectrum, many find any and all international travel daunting, treacherous and beyond their capabilities.

In order to educate and guide people on both sides of this divide, we’ve ranked 121 countries in terms of their safety for travelers. We’ve based our findings on a number of factors, including crime rates, government travel advisories, the potential for natural disasters, and the competitiveness and sustainability of each country’s tourist industry.

You can find the whole list below, but first we’d like to go in-depth on the top ten most dangerous places to travel, and what makes them so dangerous, in order to dissuade reckless thrill seekers. After that, we’ll run through the top ten safest places to travel in hopes of convincing those wary of 12 hour flights and salads that make liberal use of fish sauce that international travel can be safe and relatively stress free.

Top Ten Most Dangerous Countries for Travel

10. Colombia

While the beautiful, ecologically diverse South American nation has come a long way from its violent late 80’s/early 90’s nadir--when the Pablo Escobar-led Medellin drug cartel waged open war with the federal government, earning it the title of murder capital of the world--tourists heading to Colombia should still take caution.

Despite that fact that formerly dangerous cities such as Bogota and Medellin are now considered safe for travelers, drug cartels and the paramilitary group FARC (boasting an estimated 10,000 members) still maintain control over many remote and forested regions of the country. Even in recent years, FARC has openly battled with the Colombian military, committing kidnappings, trafficking drugs and executing large scale terrorist attacks. Because of this, much of the country is considered off-limits for tourism. Additionally, bus travel on certain highways is strongly discouraged as gangs and ?guerrillas have been known to hijack buses, robbing and even murdering the passengers within.

However, a recent ceasefire between FARC and the Colombian government is cause for hope, as the group has promised to lay down its arms and discontinue its terrorist practices. What’s more, Colombia’s 2016 homicide rate of 24.4 out of 100,000 is the lowest since 1974. Tourists should not be discouraged from traveling to Colombia and enjoying its beautiful landscapes and vibrant cities, but its best to stick to the beaten path and not venture into high risk areas.

9. Lesotho

The diminutive African nation of Lesotho, located entirely within the confines of South Africa, is a very dangerous destination for tourists. While organized crime is not a serious issue in the country, high levels of poverty and unemployment have led to extremely high crime rates and travelers are frequently targeted in assaults and robberies, even in heavily populated areas in broad daylight.

Furthermore, Lesotho has one of the highest HIV rates in the world: an estimated 25% of the adult population are carriers of the virus. Engaging in sexual activity in any fashion is a huge no-no. Compounding the hazards, medical facilities in Lesotho are very poor and ill-equipped. In the case of injury or illness, receiving adequate treatment in the country is a very difficult prospect.

8. Nigeria

In recent years, travel to the West African nation Nigeria has been extremely hazardous and ill-advised. In April 2017, the U.S. Government issued a travel warning cautioning all citizens to avoid all but the most necessary travel to the country due to the high frequency of robberies, sexual assaults and other dangers.

The Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram is a dominating presence in the northwest part of the country, and frequently targets churches, schools and government offices in sweeping and catastrophic attacks. In 2015, the fearsome organization achieved the dubious honor of unseating ISIS as the most dangerous terrorist group in the world. Responsible for an unbelievable 6073 deaths in 2014, Boko Haram’s reign of terror should be enough to dissuade anyone from traveling to Nigeria.

It’s a shame since the country’s landscape is rich and biodiverse, offering savannahs, tropical rainforest and mangrove swamps. Moreover, Nigeria’s traditional of art and music is deep and endlessly fascinating. Nevertheless, tourists ought to wait until the threat posed by Boko Haram and other militant groups is dramatically reduced before even considering travel to the country.

7. Burundi

Burundi is another African nation that poses serious dangers to prospective tourists. The U.S. State Department issued a warning in June urging Americans against travel to the country due its shaky political situation and high threat of violence.

Burundi’s borders are porous and poorly defended, resulting in many roving gangs and militia groups from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo entering at will and launching attacks against Burundians and visitors to the country. The threat is so great that 325,000 Burundians have evacuated their home nation in the past two years for safer neighboring countries.

Because of the chaos and unpredictable vehicular ambushes, roadways are heavily restricted and automotive travel throughout the country is severely limited, if not impossible. That should be enough to discourage travelers from visiting the country for the foreseeable future.

6. Mali

Sadly, Mali is yet another African nation with such a high risk for attacks, armed robberies and other dangers that tourism is simply infeasible. Extremist organizations with links to Al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups have waged an open war of terror in the capital city of Bamako, targeting foreigners in hotels, nightclubs, mosques and other places once considered safe. The Mali government has recently extended its state of emergency due to the situation and, unfortunately, hope for an end to the violence is dim, as terrorist activity in the country is expected to continue or even increase in the near future.

Kidnapping, either for ransom money or for religious motives is also an omnipresent threat, and a number of U.S. citizens are believed to be held captive in the country. In short: stay the hell out of Mali.

5. Mauritania

Mauritania, just west of Mali, is another nation that has been plagued by terrorist violence during the past decade. ISIS and other lethal terrorist groups have a strong foothold in the country, they are known to attack and murder foreigners affiliated with aid groups and western governments without prejudice and have openly declared their intention to continue such practices. Members of christian missionary groups are targets, as well.

The high density of terrorist activity in several portions of the eastern half of the country has provoked the government to declare it a restricted area, and people must obtain special permission from the government in order to travel into the region, although it’s highly unlikely that anybody would like to do so. Best to avoid Mauritania entirely until the situation improves.

4. Chad

Like many of its neighbors, the impoverished Central African nation of Chad is experiencing a wave of violence and terror at the hands of jihadist fanatic groups like Boko Haram and other fearsome paramilitary organizations.

In 2015, Boko Harem kick started a vicious campaign in Chad with an attack on a fishing village on the banks of Lake Chad resulting in several deaths. The Chadian military has engaged in war with the group ever since, to little positive effect. For those not wishing to get caught in the crossfire of this conflict, it is strongly advised that you stay away from Chad for the time being.

Other potential threats to foreign visitors include the regularity of kidnapping for ransom collection and the numerous minefields near the Sudanese border. Plus, it’s really, really hot, disease is rampant, and food is scarce.

3. Pakistan

In a welcome break from impoverished African nations enveloped in conflict with terrorist groups, number three on our list of most dangerous tourist destinations is Pakistan, the South Asian nation known for its decades-old rivalry with neighboring India and as the final hideaway of Osama bin Laden.

However, Pakistan has something in common with the aforementioned beleaguered African countries: it is awash in ideologically motivated violence. Sectarian skirmishes and terrorist bombings targeting civilians are depressingly routine. Suicide bombings with death tolls in the dozens are the norm, not the exception.

This year, several high profile attacks--including a devastating suicide bombing outside a shrine in the historic city of Sehwan took the lives of 90 people and injured over 300 more for which ISIS took responsibility—have brought the country to its knees and prompted the U.S. State Department to issue a stern travel warning urging foreigners living in or traveling to Pakistan to exercise extreme caution. It is clear that foreigners are specifically targeted by terrorist groups in both killings and kidnappings.

Violence is so out of control and unpredictable that many areas of the country are simply off limits to travelers—and significantly—for U.S. government officials as well.

The unfortunate thing is that Pakistanis, by large, are a peaceful and friendly people. The country’s murder rate is considerably lower than that of other countries that many would consider safer, such as Russia, along with many urban areas of the United States.

Nevertheless, strong anti-western sentiment, a pervasive contempt for LGBTQ folks and numerous environmental hazards, including the potential for flash floods and earthquakes to cause serious damage and loss of life in major cities like Karachi (due to crumbling, inadequate infrastructure and nonexistent drainage systems) contribute to Pakistan’s precariousness and instability. Definitely not a backpacker hotspot.

2. El Salvador

A small nation with a infamous reputation for violence, even by Central American standards, El Salvador is a place where danger lurks around every corner.

In part due to a long, demoralizing civil war between El Salvador’s right wing military-centric government (backed by the U.S.) and a number of leftist rebel groups that lasted for twelve years between 1979 and 1992 and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands, El Salvador is inundated with surplus weaponry and at the mercy of vicious and sadistic street gangs, notably MS-13 and Barrio 18.

These gangs openly engage in kidnapping, drug dealing, car jackings (as well as bus jackings) to a degree that law enforcement simply cannot cope with. Unsurprisingly, El Salvadorians themselves are the biggest victims of the chaos, and a 2016 Central American University poll found that 24.5% of Salvadorians became victims of a violence crime in 2015. While foreigners are not specifically targeted, it’s easy to get caught in the crossfire of a gang war or be preyed upon in a random attack.

In addition to the threat of violence, El Salvador is vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms, which cause floods and sudden mudslides.

Even though its murder rate has dipped in recent years, owing to a nationwide military campaign to combat gang activity, backpackers heading through Central America are strongly advised to skip this stop.

1. Honduras

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Honduras comes at number one in the rankings for most dangerous travel destinations. For the past decade, the Central American nation has suffered from one of the worst homicide rates in the world. Since 2017, there have been 47 murders of U.S. citizens in the country, including 4 in 2016, and many more tourists have been robbed or assaulted, even in resort areas and other places considered safe.

Much of the violence is attributed to the presence of dominant street gangs such as MS-13 unhesitant to use extreme measures such as kidnapping, home invasion and even holding up public buses in order to amass funds. The gangs even control a number of the taxi services, and use that to their advantage to rob and extort unwitting customers. While criminal organizations in many countries tend to leave tourists alone, in Honduras, everyone is a target. What’s worse, the underfunded, ill-equipped police force does not have the resources to effectively fight back.

Honduras’s roads are another hazard: they are poorly maintained and traffic signs are imprecise or simply nonexistent. Local drivers often fail to obey traffic rules, speeding and passing in dangerous situations. Defense driving is a must.

Although there signs of improvement; the 2016 homicide rate of 59.1 murders per 100,000 people is down from 2011’s whopping 86.5 per 100,000, its best for tourists to avoid this country altogether.

Now that all you thrill junkies are sufficiently chastened, let’s count down the top ten safest countries for tourism.

Top Ten Safest Countries for Travel

10. Australia

The “land down under” is one of the safest destinations in the world for travelers. Compared to the United States, crime rates are very low, particularly for violent crime, as the U.S.’s rate of 4.7 incidents per 100k is a whopping four times higher than Australia’s. Furthermore, Australia’s homicide rate has steadily decreased in recent years, hitting a record low of 1 per 100,000 in the most recent findings. Tourists can rest easy knowing that the chances of being assaulted or killed in the country are next to none.

Australia is also generally safe from the threat of natural disasters, although occasional heat waves and bush fires in the country’s arid interior have been known to take lives. And while the country is infamous for being home to some of the most poisonous animals in the world, like the box jellyfish, with venom that can shut down a person’s nervous system in minutes, as well as 21 of the 25 most poisonous snakes in existence, very few people die each year from animal bites or stings. Exercising the proper caution should keep you safe. Perishing in a car crash is far more likely.

9. Norway

Norway--along with the rest of its Scandinavian neighbors--is extremely safe and violent crime is nearly unheard of. Police in the country don’t even carry guns. Despite the one dark spot in the nation’s recent history, travelers to the icy northern land can count on safety and the opportunity to interact with some of the most friendly and helpful people on earth.

The one area for concern is Norway’s frosty climate. According to the U.S. State Department, road conditions outside of Oslo can be treacherous, depending on weather conditions. Exposure is another concern, so don’t get drunk and pass out in a snow bank.

8. Canada

It is often claimed that that Canucks have a rate of gun ownership comparable to that of the United States, but with a drastically lower homicide rate. This is not quite true, as the U.S.’s 89 guns per 100 residents is far higher than Canada’s 31 per 100k, but it is true that the discrepancy in murder rates is significant. At around 2 per 100k, Canada’s homicide rate is less than half of its southern neighbor.

While there are some pockets of Toronto that might be considered less than safe, tourists would really have to go out of their way to find themselves in a dangerous situation. Canada is an overwhelmingly safe travel destination.

Reading that thousands of avalanches occur in Canada each year may seem concerning, but they mostly occur in remote northern areas where no reasonable person would set foot and pose no significant threat to travelers. Like Norway, the one noteworthy concern is the temperature. It can get pretty cold, so be sure to pack those long johns.

7. Germany

Yes, the recent influx of Syrian refugees into Germany has perpetuated something of a panic, but the actual threat posed by the recent migrants is drastically lower than sensationalist news media outlets would lead you to believe. Germany is a very safe country, and its people are honest to a fault and most would not think of scamming or misleading a visitor to the country.

Additionally, its geographical location protects Germany from any sort of natural disaster. The country is so short on threats that the U.S. State Department actually warns about roving bands of “hooligans” (their words, not mine), so I suppose that’s something to lookout for. Perhaps it’s best to steer clear of the area around Volksparkstadion stadium in Hamburg after the beloved Hamburger SV football club suffers a heartbreaking loss against traditional rivals, Werder Bremen.

6. France

In recent years, France has suffered several devastating terrorist attacks, the most severe of which being the heartbreaking 2015 mass shooting at the Bataclan theatre that coincided with several other bombings in Paris on the same day.

With these notable incidents in mind, it may be hard to believe that France belongs in a list of the top ten safest tourist destinations. However, France is the most visited country in the world, attracting over 80 million tourists from all over the world in a given year. The overwhelming majority (99.99% or more) of these travelers enjoy their trips in complete safety, thanks to a well-developed tourist infrastructure and a very low crime rate.

Of course, terrorist attacks command public attention and stoke fear; that is what they are designed to do. Nobody should be criticized for factoring these incidents into their travel plans, but it’s important to consider the extreme statistical unlikelihood of becoming a victim in such an attack. By most statistical measures, American visitors to France are safer during the duration of their trip than they are in their daily lives back home.

5. United Kingdom

As with France, several high profile incidents of terror have rocked the U.K. in the past half-decade, yet also like France, the country (yes, it’s technically one country, but also, like, several countries at the same time?) is overwhelmingly safe, statistically speaking, drawing tens of millions of visitors a year that tour the country without incident.

From 2000 to 2017, 126 people were killed in the United Kingdom as a result of terrorist attacks. By contrast, 372 were killed in such attacks in 1988 alone.

It may seem like I’m beating this to death, but it’s important to stress how media coverage and fearmongering distorts our perception of the actual potential for danger.

By any approximation, the U.K. is a safe place: the homicide rate is super low, gun ownership is practically non-existent (handguns are completely illegal), temperatures are mild (if a bit nippy), and dangerous and/or poisonous animals are nowhere to be found unlike its former prison colony across the globe.

4. Spain

Analogous to its Western European neighbors, Spain is a very safe country for tourists to visit. The birthplace of flamenco music and cold, refreshing gazpacho reported a 2016 homicide rate of just 0.66 people out of 100,000, good enough for second lowest in the EU and besting those of the eminently safe East Asian nations of Taiwan and South Korea. Also, Spain has somehow avoided steered clear of large scale terrorist attacks like those occurring in France and the U.K recently.

Considering the sheer of volume of foreign visitors Spain attracts each year without incident, Spain has a remarkable safety record. Travelers to the nation have very little to worry about, other than a heightened risk of pickpocketing and other petty crime in some touristy areas.

3. Japan

There are few countries on Earth where one can leave a bike unlocked in public for a week and come back to find it untouched, but Japan is one of them. For myriad reasons, the Land of the Rising Sun is one of the safest travel destinations on the planet. Theft is nearly unheard of, drug use is extremely scarce (and heavily punished) and the homicide rate of about 0.3 people per 100,000 is among the lowest in the developed world. Crime and murder are so suspiciously rare that a wealth of academic studies have been published in hopes of determining the reason behind it.

With an uber-friendly, polite (albeit shy) populace and virtually zero chance of becoming the victim of a crime, it goes without saying that Japan is nearly unparalleled in terms of safety for tourists. The only knock against it is its vulnerability towards earthquakes and tsunamis.

2. Singapore

World famous for its spotless sidewalks, broad-spectrum orderliness and--let’s face it,--draconian punishments for relatively minor crimes, Singapore is definitely one of the safest countries in the world. As long as people don’t spit gum out on the street or spray paint a train car—criminal offenses that may illicit a caning in the small city state--travelers would be hard pressed to find a more secure travel destination on the planet.

Whether you agree with the Singapore government’s authoritarian approach or not, the fact that its crime rates are basically the lowest in the world are evidence that it is effective. The one area of concern, according to Singapore law enforcement, is the recent increase in online scams, particularly sex-for-credit scams, but only lonely suckers fall for those.

1. Hong Kong

Technically a part of China, but with its own distinct laws, government and culture, Hong Kong is another East Asian destination where a woman or man can walk any street at any time of day or night without fear. With low (and continually declining) crime rates comparable to those of Japan and Singapore, yet without the authoritarian government of the latter or the risk of natural disaster in the former, Hong Kong is the safest place for tourists on Earth.

With a substantial and well-developed tourist sector, widespread use of English, and a fast, efficient and modern subway system, travelers to Hong Kong will continuously feel at ease.

The one strike against Hong Kong’s safety rating is its vulnerability to disease epidemics, as in the case of the 2003 SARS scar. This vulnerability stems from its humid, subtropical climate, high population density, and proximity to the Guangdong Province of China, where people eat anything that has four legs that isn’t a table and everything that flies that isn’t an airplane, culinary tendencies that increase the likelihood of a virus transferring from animal to human. Still, such outbreaks are few and far between, and not enough to knock Hong Kong off from its perch as the safest place to travel.

The following metrics were taken into account when creating this ranking: Crime, Security, Tourism, and Natural Disasters.

Rank (safest to dangerous)Country
1Hong Kong SAR
5United Kingdom
11United Arab Emirates
13United States
18New Zealand
33Czech Republic
43Costa Rica
67Sri Lanka
73Saudi Arabia
75Trinidad and Tobago
79South Africa
85Bosnia and Herzegovina
98Dominican Republic
103Sierra Leone
120El Salvador

The Most Dangerous States for Online Dating


The use of online dating services and mobile hookup apps is so commonplace and socially accepted these days that it’s hard to remember that merely decade ago, using a service like OkCupid or carried a heavy social stigma. The internet dating scene was widely viewed as the last resort for the hopeless, terminally undesirable dregs of society. Circa 2007, hardly anyone would fess up to using an online dating service, and those that did– or were caught in the act by a pal or coworker– would claim that “it’s just for fun, nothing serious, no expectations. I mean, take look at these people!”

Obviously, this is no longer the case. In our post-Tinder world, not only has the use of online dating services and hookup apps become widespread and socially acceptable, by some accounts it is the most common way couples people meet.

According to a Pew study, the percentage of 18-24 year olds that use online dating apps has nearly tripled in the past four years, from 10% in 2013 up to 27% in 2017.

In the same study, 80% of people who have used online dating agree that it is a good way to meet people, while only 16% participants agree with the statement, “People who use online dating sites are desperate.”  

Furthermore, despite the data being incomplete, we can confidently say that anywhere from 7% to a full third of modern marriages are between couples that first met online. In a few short years, online dating has gone from a punchline-slash-last resort to the surest bet in the search for a soulmate or one time booty call.

It’s almost too easy: whether you’re gay, straight, or transgender; a middle-aged divorcee or sophomore in college, have a preference for brunettes or cue-balled Sinead O’Conner lookalikes, you can find exactly what you’re looking for by browsing through scores of potential candidates with the mere swipe of  the thumb. It’s no longer necessary to post up next to a cute girl at the bar, banking on your best pickup line, or skillfully interpreting subtle body language and conversational cues in order to determine if someone is interested or not. Nope. All that is the way of the past.

Unfortunately, the use of online dating apps is by no means safe, or predictable. The risks and potential dangers inherent to these apps are very real and not to be taken lightly. Tinder, Grindr and similar apps allow users to cultivate and tweak their profiles as they see fit, authenticity be damned. Alongside the users that are honest about their looks, interests and other personal info, there are scores of others engaging in deception, both mild and absolute, users might post misleading pics, or lie about their age or profession, and in some cases create totally fictitious profiles from the bottom up in order to troll, exploit or even physically harm users of the app. Incidents of rape and assault resulting from online dating encounters have become depressingly commonplace, as have money scams and other forms of identity theft.

While there’s always an element of danger in meeting a stranger from the internet–particularly for women –being informed about hazards and their probability helps users to use Tinder and other apps cautiously and wisely, avoiding potential dangers and pitfalls. Knowing the likelihood of a Tinder date ending in panic or disaster is a significant factor in making the right decisions.

The United States is vast, and rates of violent crime, sexually transmitted diseases and identity theft–all risk factors for a single person to consider when choosing to date a stranger from the internet–vary a lot from one state to another. Some places are much more dangerous for others. That’s why we’ve created this list. In order to help people make more informed decisions in using these services, we’ve ranked all fifty states according to how dangerous it is to use online dating services and hookup apps, with one #1 being the least dangerous and #50 being a veritable minefield. In determining our ranking, we used relevant factors including statewide violent crime rates, infection rates for the most common STDs, and the frequency of identity theft.

Dangerous States for Online Dating HeatMap

Coming in at the top are two northeast states: Vermont at number one followed by Maine at number two. We can’t vouch for the nightlife options in these heavily forested, sparsely attended states, but with low rates of STD, violent crime, and identity theft, online dating in the area is a much safer bet than elsewhere.

The top five is rounded out by Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, three western states all known more for sprawling, rugged landscapes than bustling entertainment sectors, or the kinds of places people meet on dates. There seems to be a correlation between quiet, peaceful wilderness and safe online dating.

Filling out the top ten are New Hampshire, two Southeastern states, West Virginia and Kentucky, and two Midwestern States, Iowa and Minnesota, with safe and friendly reputations.

At the bottom of the list is Missouri, owing to a whoppingly high risk of identity theft. Two southern states, Florida and Louisiana are at #49, and #48, respectively. Both states have thriving urban centers notorious for partying and hedonism. Anyone using Tinder in New Orleans, or Miami, beware.  

Two of the most populated states in the U.S., Illinois (#44) and California (#43) also hold the dubious distinction of falling into the bottom ten. Unsurprisingly, Nevada’s high rates of STD infection and violent crime push it down to #46.

So if you live in any of the dangerous areas for online dating, exercise caution. Make you minimize all possible risk factors. Residents in the safer states, you can breathe a little easier, but it never hurts to be a little extra careful.

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