Cocaine use is down but marijuana use continues to grow among men arrested in 10 U.S. cities, according to a federal drug-monitoring program's annual report released Wednesday.
Marijuana was the most commonly used illegal substance, the 2011 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Annual Report (ADAM II) says. In Sacramento, Minneapolis, Chicago and Charlotte, N.C., 50 percent or more of arrestees tested positive, not significantly different from 2010, but continuing an upward trend from 2000, it said. Sacramento saw the highest use at 56 percent, and highest growth, up from 46 percent since 2009.
The other cities in the study are Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis, Portland, Ore., New York, and Washington, D.C.
Cocaine, the second most-common drug, generally is down in all 10 cities, ranging from 10 percent of arrestees in Sacramento to 33 percent in Atlanta. The largest declines in cocaine use were seen in New York and Chicago, from more than 50 percent of arrestees in 2000 to less than 30 percent in 2011.
Overall, more than 60 percent of men arrested in 2011 for crimes ranging from misdemeanors to felonies tested positive for at least one illicit drug, the report said. Positive test results ranged from 64 percent in Atlanta to 81 percent in Sacramento, Calif. Four cities, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, and Portland, Ore., joined Sacramento in reporting 70 percent or more arrestees testing positive.
The report is based on thousands of interviews and drug tests of all arrestees, not just those in drug-related cases. They are tested for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines/methamphetamine, Darvon, PCP, benzodiazepines, methadone, and barbiturates, but not alcohol, under the program.
Among other key findings from the report:
- Heroin and other opiate use tripled in Denver since 2000 and doubled since 2010. Other cities with significant increases were Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and Sacramento. However, New York and Chicago saw significant decreases, the report said.
- Methamphetamine use rose most in Portland and Sacramento, the leader of the 10 cities with 43 percent testing positive, up from 31 percent in 2011. The other eight cities saw little change in meth use among arrestees.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of national drug control policy, said at a news conference that the results highlight the importance of policies, such as those proposed by the Obama administration drug policies, to break the cycle of drug use, arrest, incarceration, release and re-arrest.
"These data confirm that we must address our drug problem as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue,” Kerlikowske said. “We cannot simply arrest our way out of the drug problem."
He called for supporting drug courts and policies that work to break "the vicious cycle of drug use and crime, reduce recidivism, and make our communities healthier and safer.”
He credited the fall in cocaine use to education programs, particularly word-of-mouth discussions in African-American communities about the dangers of crack cocaine, and reduction of Colombia production.
Drug use must be treated as a chronic illness that changes the brain structure and impairs decision-making by users who can't control urgings and cravings, said Dr. Redonna Chandler, chief researcher at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"Incarceration, boot camp and forced abstinence are no substitute for treatment," she said.
West Huddleston, executive director of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, said drug courts can save communities $2.20 for every dollar invested. He said there appears to be bipartisan support for drug courts -- there are now 2,600 nationwide, reaching 120,000 participants a year.
"Seventy percent of graduates will never see another pair of handcuffs," he said.
Law enforcement authorities say drug traffickers are hiding behind California's medical marijuana laws, established in 1996 to help people manage nausea and pain associated with serious illnesses, and distributing the drug illegally. Current TV's Adam Yamaguchi reports in this Rock Center online exclusive netcast.
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