Still Waiting for the Epidemic


The latest data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released today, indicate that consumption of illegal intoxicants hardly changed between 2004 and 2005. Of particular note, methamphetamine use as measured by this survey has been essentially flat (declining slightly, if anything) since 2002, despite all the talk of a "meth epidemic" stalking the land. OxyContin use, first broken out separately in 2004 because the timed-release form of oxycodone was supposedly the new drug of choice (maybe to come down off the meth), likewise has not risen.

So drug warriors are either successfully holding the line or failing to make any progress in their efforts to achieve a "drug-free America." You decide.

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  1. So if ten million users is not an epidemic, what number of users would constitute an epidemic?

    For reference:
    1 : affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time
    2 excessively prevalent

    It may not be wise to treat as a law enforcement issue, but there is nothing inaccurate regarding use of the term “epidemic.”

    At the end of 2003, an estimated 1,039,000 to 1,185,000 persons in the United States were living with HIV/AIDS.

    We talk of this 1 million people as an epidemic all the time.

  2. I notice that the one major drug where whites are the most users is alchohol. Its also the legal one.

    Amazing how so many past year users of meth manage not to be past month users, and so few required treatment to fall into that category.

    Americans who support the War on Drugs should be required to have one of those tables tatooed on their forehead written backwards.

    That would be progress.

  3. MSM – that’s 10 million over their entire lifetime. That’s not people “living with” methamphetamine.

    Also, using “epidemic” makes it sound like it’s a horrible thing. Not everyone who has used meth has had it become a problem approaching anything like an illness.

    And just because I snorted a line of meth to study for a mid-term last semester doesn’t mean I’ve got a problem with it. (For illustration purposes only, I don’t go to school.)

    These are just numbers that don’t really tell anyone a whole lot. Other than the fact that billions of our dollars are being spent on achieving nothing. Oh wait, that should be very telling but it’s not.

    That’s just sad.

  4. I would guess the comsumption of intoxicants (regardless of legal status) has changled little since 1900, or even 1900 BCE.

  5. Lowdog,

    I am on your side here.

    I think, however, if you want to convince the mainstream about the need to change our national stance on drugs, you do a disservice to the argument by pretending it is not an actual problem. Arguing that the perceived problem is not a problem, just helps the person who sees it as a problem discount anything else you will say. If, however, you admit that, maybe there are a lot of people with a meth problem (or a drug problem), then you can begin a discussion about how best to address (or not) that issue. This seems a far more productive way to argue than stating that those who see it as epidemic are just stupid. They are not. And because they are not, they may be convinced that law enforcement is not the answer.

    By the way, 1.3 million in the last year, 500 thousand in the last month. These are all large numbers that those who see it as a problem will be able to point to when you discount there use of the term “epidemic.”

  6. MSM – I know you are, and I wasn’t trying to blast you by any means, it’s just that the drug war is the biggest threat to freedom ever devised, and it rankles me to the core.

    Besides, while being immersed in the underground, “counter-culture” for most of my life, I’ve seen far more people use mind-altering substances for fun than have screwed themselves up. Again, just because you’ve used doesn’t mean it causes you any problems.

    Finally, the worst “drug” for me is alcohol, and it’s legal. Which makes it quite easy to lose control over it. (Not that I get violent or any real problems like that, I just tend to bing once I get started.) Go figure.

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