I. Drug Use Trends -- The Threat is Great, but We are Making Solid Progress
Illegal Drug Use Places a Tremendous Burden on America: The social costs of drug use in America total over $67 billion per year, including $46 billion in crime, $6.3 billion in AIDs-related costs and $8 billion in illness-related costs. Cocaine initiation rates -- the number of people trying the drug for the first time -- have begun to increase. Heroin initiation rates are up markedly. Drug use trends among young people remain especially troubling. Drug-use rates among youth, while still well below the 1979 peak of 16.3 percent, remain substantially higher than the 1992 low of 5.3 percent. One in four twelfth graders is a current illegal drug user, while for eighth graders, the figure is approximately one in eight. Elevated drug-use rates are a reflection of pro-drug pressures and drug availability. Almost one in four twelfth graders say that "most or all" of their friends use illegal drugs. A Columbia University Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse survey reported that 41 percent of teens had attended parties where marijuana was available, and 30 percent had seen drugs sold at school.
Illegal Drug Use Rates are 50 Percent Lower Than 1979's Historic High Level: In 1996, an estimated thirteen million Americans (6.1 percent of the U.S. household population aged twelve and over) were current drug users. This figure is roughly half the number in 1979 when twenty-five million (or 14.1 percent of the population) were current users.
Illegal Drug Use Has Begun to Level off Among Youth The University of Michigan's 1997 Monitoring the Future (MTF) study and SAMHSA's 1996 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) indicate that youth drug use rates seem to be leveling off, and in some cases are declining. The MTF found that, for the first time in six years, the use of marijuana and other illegal drugs stabilized among eighth graders. Use of marijuana and other illegal drugs among tenth and twelfth graders also appears to have leveled off. The NHSDA reported that current drug use among twelve to seventeen-year-olds declined between 1995 and 1996 from 10.9 percent to 9 percent. The MTF study also reported that attitudes regarding drugs, which are key predictors of use, began to reverse in 1997 after seven years of erosion.
Crack Use is Declining: The most recent data from the Drug Use Forecasting Program, which monitors arrestees, show a coast-to-coast decline in crack use (from a 29 percent decline in Washington, D.C., from 1988 to 1996, to 15 percent decline in San Jose, from 1989 to 1996) -- a good indication that the crack epidemic that began in 1987 continues to abate.
Good News on Methamphetamine: Meth use, as reflected by the Drug Use Forecasting Program'stesting of arrestees, is down in the eight cities that had been suffering the highest increases in use: 52% drop in Dallas; 20% drop in San Jose; 19% in San Diego; 34% in Portland; and over 40% in Denver, Omaha and Phoenix.
Cocaine Production Down Sharply: Indications are that cocaine production in the Andean region -- the primary producing area -- may be down as much as 100 tons from last year.
Spending on Drug Consumption is Down: The most recent data shows the amount Americans spend buying illegal drugs is down roughly 37 percent from 1988 to 1995 -- a total per annum decline of $34.1 billion reinvested in American society.
Drug-Related Crime is in Decline: In 1989, according to the FBI, there were 1,402 murders related to narcotic drug laws. In 1992, that number dropped to 1,302. By 1996, that number hit a low of 819.
Drug-Related Medical Emergencies Remain Near Historic Highs: SAMHSA's Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reported that drug-related episodes dropped 6 percent between 1995 and 1996, from 518,000 to 488,000. Heroin-related episodes declined slightly, the first decline since 1990. Methamphetamine-related incidents decreased 33 percent to 10,787, the second year of decline since the 1994 peak of 17,665.
Drug Offenders Crowd our Prisons and Jails: In June 1997, the nation's prisons and jails held 1,725,842 men and women -- an increase of more than 96,000 over the prior year. More Americans were behind bars than on active duty in the Armed Forces. The increase in drug offenders accounts for nearly three-quarters of the growth in the federal prison population between 1985 and 1995, while the number of inmates in state prisons for drug-law violations increased by 478 percent over the same period.
Public Awareness About the Dangers of Drugs is Increasing: A 1997 Harvard University poll found that adults believe the number one problem facing America's children is drug abuse. A 1997 study by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that over half of our young people support drug testing in their schools and say they are willing to report a drug user to school officials.
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