Friday, March 05, 2010

Government Data: More Than 95% of Americans Who've Tried Crack or Meth Are NOT Regular Users

From John Stossel:

"I believed the Drug Enforcement Administration's claim that drugs like crack and meth routinely addict people on first use. But Jacob Sullum, who wrote "
Saying Yes", says, "If you look at the government's own data about patterns of drug use, it clearly is not true."

The data are remarkable: 8.5 million Americans have tried crack, but there are only 359,000 regular users. The government defines "regular use" as using a drug at least once in the past 30 days. More than 12 million tried meth, but only 314,000 still take it. The story is similar for heroin. Most people who try these "instantly addictive drugs" do not get "hopelessly addicted." They give them up on their own.

[MP: According to government data, 95.8% of Americans who have tried crack are NOT regular users, and 97.4% of those who have tried meth are NOT regular users.]

As Sullum puts it: "The vast majority of people who use illegal drugs do not become heavy users, do not become addicts; it does not disrupt their lives. In fact, I would argue it enhances their lives. How do we know that? Because they use it."

But on the news, we constantly see people whose lives have been destroyed by drugs. Sullum says: 'When you have prohibition, the most visible users are the ones who are most anti-social, most screwed up. They're the ones who come to the attention of the police. ... People who present themselves as experts on drug use, because they come into contact with all these addicts, have a very skewed perspective because they are seeing a biased sample. The people who are well adjusted, responsible users are invisible.'"


At 3/05/2010 11:03 PM, Blogger smd said...

where is this data?

At 3/05/2010 11:13 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

I believe the data are in the book mentioned "Saying Yes."

At 3/05/2010 11:31 PM, Blogger bobble said...

good post. interesting, if true.

i took methedrine pills as a college student (cramming for those exams) but quit after college.

its been 35 years of abstinence since then, so i didn't get addicted. they were fun and useful. i'd probably take some now and then if i could get them legally.

At 3/06/2010 12:10 AM, Blogger Marko said...

Maybe they stop using it because they are DEAD.

At 3/06/2010 12:19 AM, Anonymous Anolerep said...

And we can always trust survey data, particularly from drug users.

Alcoholics almost always understate their alcohol consumption on surveys. They may not even be "lying." Their perception of reality is distorted.

The best way to get bad data from people is to ask them. The best way to get really bad data is to ask bad people. The best way to get completely fictitious data is to ask a bad scientist.

At 3/06/2010 12:25 AM, Blogger Bret said...

I'm all for drug legalization and my experience from college days is not incompatible with those statistics.

However, there is also little doubt in my mind that there will be more addicts, possibly a lot more. There are plenty of people addicted to alcohol and tobacco and no reason comparable numbers wouldn't eventually become addicted to other substances.

So we as a society will bear quite a responsibility if we legalize these drugs. Unfortunately, we currently bear quite a responsibility for the devastation we impose on Latin America in the "War on Drugs". Personally, I prefer the former.

At 3/06/2010 7:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Legalizing drugs is a mixed bag for me. I wouldn't care if MJ was legal, but drugs like crack and meth have some pretty severe psychological side effects. In fact, meth addiction is completely psychological (there is not physical component to meth addiction).

Would deaths and hospitalizations resulting from OD increase or decrease from legalization? I agree with Jacob Sullum that crimes like rape, spousal abuse, and child abuse are more likely to occur when heavy alcohol use is thrown on the fire, but I don't think those victims would fair any better in a situation with a guy pumped up on meth and suffering the severe paranoia effect of a multi-day meth bender. (It's really easy to pull multi-day benders on meth).


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