Drug Use Widespread Among Arrestees, ONDCP Says

An annual study of newly arrested offenders finds that up to 87 percent of men accused of crimes tested positive for the presence of illicit drugs, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

The 2008 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (ADAM II), which includes data on male arrestees booked for offenses in 10 major metropolitan areas, found that positive drug test rates ranged from 49 percent in Washington, D.C., to 87 percent in Chicago. Marijuana, cocaine, opiates and methamphetamine were the most common illicit drugs detected, with polydrug-use rates ranging from 15 percent in Atlanta to 40 percent in Chicago.

Offenders were not tested for alcohol use, the drug most commonly associated with crime. Traces of alcohol remains in the system for a limited period of time, whereas drug testing can detect traces of drugs like marijuana weeks or even months after use.

The report found significant geographic differences in illicit-drug prevalence: for example, 41 percent of arrestees in Chicago tested positive for cocaine, compared to just 17 percent in Sacramento. And while less than one percent of arrestees in the eastern U.S. tested positive for methamphetamine, 35 percent of those booked on criminal charges in Sacramento had meth in their system, as did 15 percent of arrestees in Portland, Ore.

The ADAM II report also found that more than 80 percent of arrestees who reported illicit drug use within the past year had been arrested previously — a finding that ONDCP said argued in favor of expanding programs that divert nonviolent offenders to addiction treatment rather than prison.

“Not only does this new report reaffirm the strong link between drug use and crime, but it also tells us that we must concentrate our resources on programs that have been proven to break the cycle of drugs and crime,” said ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske.

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