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PolicyPolicy
II. America's Drug Use Profile
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Drugs And Crime: An Undeniable Nexus, A Heavy Price

Drug trafficking and violence go hand in hand. While national crime rates in general continue to decline, more than 1.5 million Americans were arrested for drug-law violations in 1997, an all-time high.40 Many crimes (e.g., murder, assault, prostitution, and robbery) are committed under the influence of drugs or may be motivated by a need to obtain money for drugs.

Arrestees frequently test positive for recent drug use. The National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Arrestee and Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) drug-testing program found that more than 60 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for drugs in twenty of twenty-three cities in 1997.41 In Manhattan, 78.6 percent of males arrested for assault tested positive for illegal drugs.42 In recent years, cocaine abuse has been largely a problem among older arrestees. In the 1980s as much as 80 percent of male arrestees in large cities tested positive for cocaine use. This trend has slowly decreased, but the drop has been dramatic among young arrestees. Currently approximately 5 percent of young arrestees (aged fifteen to twenty) test positive for cocaine in cities such as Detroit and Washington, D.C., compared with the 50 percent positive rate for arrestees aged 36 and older.43 This would suggest that the population of addicts is aging and illustrates the persistent nature of addiction.

Heroin use is also found primarily among older arrestees, although in some cities such as Philadelphia, New Orleans, and St. Louis, there is an increase in heroin use among young arrestees.44 Heroin use is often connected with property crime, as addicts seek to steal and convert stolen goods in order to buy more heroin.

For young adult males, the median rate of marijuana prevalence exceeded 64 percent in all cities in 1996, but then declined in 15 cities in 1997.45 However, marijuana use among arrestees is still concentrated disproportionately among youthful arrestees.46

Methamphetamine use, after declining among arrestees in 1996, rebounded in 1997 in the West and Southwest. Scant evidence exists, however, that methamphetamine use is reaching the East or Southeast in appreciable numbers. The fluctuations in use and the regional concentration suggest that methamphetamine is more sensitive than are other illicit drugs to law enforcement activity.47

Marijuana Use Correlates with Violent Crime
Source: ADAM, 1997

Drug Related Arrests are Rising
Source: Uniform Crime Reports, FBI.

Drug offenders crowd the nation's prisons and jails. More than 1.8 million Americans were incarcerated as of January 1998. One in every 117 men in the United States was incarcerated in a state or federal prison at year end 1997.48 More Americans were behind bars than on active duty in the armed forces. The number of sentenced prisoners rose by 5.2 percent in 1997. Between 1990 and 1996, the number of female inmates serving time in state prisons for drug offenses doubled and drug offenders accounted for 25 percent of the total growth in the state inmate population.49 More than 62.5 percent of the inmates in the Federal prison system in 1997 were sentenced for drug offenses, up from 53 percent in 1990.50 In 1997, 18,813 people were sentenced in Federal court for drug violations. Just under half of these cases involved cocaine.51

1.8 Million Americans are Incarcerated: An All-Time High
Source: FBI, Uniform Crime Reports

This high rate of incarceration is spread disproportionately among different ethnic groups. In 1996 the rate of incarceration among African-American males was 3,098 per 100,000 compared to 1,278 for Hispanic males and 370 for white males.52 A March 1997 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that African-American men were nearly twice as likely to be incarcerated in their lifetime (28.5 percent) as Hispanic men (16.0 percent) and six times more likely than white men (4.4 percent).53

Costs for incarceration continue to rise. In 1993 state correction expenses exceeded nineteen billion dollars, an increase of 243 percent from 1982.54 Some states now spend more on prisons than on education. Across the nation, states spent 30 percent more on prison budgets and 18 percent less on higher education in 1995 than they did in 1987.55

Substance abuse, family violence, and child maltreatment. Researchers have found that one-fourth to one-half of men who commit acts of domestic violence also have substance-abuse problems. Women who abuse alcohol and other drugs are more likely to become victims of domestic violence than non-alcohol and drug-using women. A survey of state child welfare agencies by the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse found substance abuse to be one of the top two problems exhibited by 81 percent of families reported for child maltreatment.56 Research on the link between parental substance abuse and child maltreatment suggests that chemical dependence is present in at least one-half of the families involved in the child welfare system.57 In a January 1999 report, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), estimates that substance abuse causes or contributes to seven of ten cases of child maltreatment and accounts for some ten billion dollars in federal, state, and local government spending on child welfare systems.58

Drug Related Murders Continue to Decline
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998

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1999 National Drug Control Strategy Office of National Drug Control Policy