Drug War

Graph on Drug Overdose Deaths Highlights the Inconsistencies and Stupidity of the War on Drugs


Below is a graph put together by Kaite Peek over at Popsci:

Credit: Katie Peek

The graph charts the number of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. from 1999 to 2010 using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's WONDER database. A few things to note:

  • The graph puts methamphetamines, MDMA, and caffeine in the same group (Psychostimulants).
  • Marijuana and LSD only appear in the "Other" category (the tiny grey section at the top, which also includes opium, mescaline, mushroom, and overdose by assault).
  • The article below the graph includes a few caveats:

…if a person had multiple drugs listed on their death certificate, they're being counted twice here. Also, the database doesn't include nonresidents—either undocumented immigrants or U.S. citizens living abroad.

Despite grouping caffeine with meth and some data collection issues (potentially counting some people twice), the graph does a pretty good job of highlighting the fact that American drug policy is not motivated by a desire to reduce harm. Were American policies towards dangerous substances motivated by desire to reduce the number of deaths alcohol and cigarettes would be prohibited and regulations on pharmaceuticals would change. 

Watch Nick Gillespie discuss the war on drug with Stephen Colbert here and read more from Reason.com on the war on drugs here. 

NEXT: U.S. Deports Own Citizens Because of Bad Data, Official Incompetence

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  1. highlighting the fact that American drug policy is not motivated by a desire to reduce harm


    The HELL you say!

  2. Wait – this is today’s “dog bites man” story, right? Got it.

  3. I see they had to place marijuana with other drugs in order to charge it with guilt by association.

    1. I was going to say something like this. I don’t think it’s physically possible to die from marijuana, unless you are eating a weed brownie and choke on it, in which case wouldn’t that be “death by choking” anyway?

      I’m not surprised by their disingenuous graph at all, but it’s pretty pathetic.

      1. I’m pretty sure that if someone is driving while stoned, and some kid runs a red light while driving a hundred miles an hour and kills the driver, that the accident will be written off as “drug related.”

        The official cause of death would then be marijuana.

        1. “The official cause of death would then be marijuana.”

          Pretty sure ‘tobacco-related’ deaths are scammed as well. Get run over by a bus while having a smoke? You got it…

        2. Implausible, no one stoned would ever drive 100 miles an hour.

          Now, if you said they were driving 10 miles an hour and someone else hit them and died, that scenario is more realistic.

          1. Perhaps I was unclear. The stoner is slowly driving through the intersection and some kid runs a light and kills the stoner. The accident is ruled a “drug related,” the cause of death is marijuana, and the kid doesn’t even get a ticket.

    2. And even with the grouping, the line is about 1 pixel tall.

    3. Uh, shrooms, LSD and mescaline are pretty harmless too. You can’t OD on any of them.

      1. Maybe not OD, but you might wish you were dead.

        On some TV show or another I saw some drug warrior tell the story of how they’d busted a LSD lab. When they were busting it up, he accidentally got a huge dose of acid. He spent the next 24 hours or so in abject terror.

        I had not the slightest bit of sympathy for him.

        1. He spent the next 24 hours or so in abject terror.

          Set and setting. What do you suppose was the mindset of that glorious drug warrior?

  4. Wait, the overdose rate has doubled in the last 12 years?

    That seems unlikely. If true though, it clearly just means that we are not fighting the drug war hard enough.

    1. Looks like we need a war on the Pharmaceutical Industry since they seem to be the big increase.

      Is Bush’s prescription drug program to blame?

    2. I blame cheap benzos from China!

    3. Wait, the overdose rate has doubled in the last 12 years?

      This is what I was wondering, too. If true, this is an incredibly under-reported story.

      Given that the largest (by far) category is “pharmaceuticals,” I can see why, though. No one in government has anything to gain by trumpeting this.

    4. Yes, you are right, if this is the condition that the drug overdose deaths has doubled in the recent years then, definitely there are some consequences regarding our fight against drugs and drug overdose.
      Know more about Drug Overdose Symptoms by emergency care Houston

  5. Opium is not a narcotic, but cocaine is? Do words mean anything?

    1. Not anymore, narcotic just means ‘bad drugz’ now.

  6. Let’s not forget that pharmaceuticals and alcohol are used more often than, for example, heroin, so it’s not surprising there are more overdose deaths. It’s meaningless to compare relative stats as to deaths without taking into account disparities in usage. THAT would give a much better view as to dangerousness.

    1. And how many of those overdoses are intentional versus accidental? You can kill yourself with a lot of things, but that doesn’t tell you how dangerous they actually are to use.

      1. It looks like in the pharmaceuticals category they break out intentional and unintentional “self harm”.

        1. Ime, a fair # of cases we find notes/statements etc. making it easy to determine the OD was intentional but of course there will be intentional OD’s that won’t be recognized as such

          1. Yeah that at some addicts might not be “suicidal”, but simultaneously know they are using a level of drugs that will likely end in death and don’t really care.

            Which to me seems to still be suicide in a sense (analogous on some level with suicide by cop), but certainly not counted as such as on any given “OD” the addict would correctly claim they didn’t intend to die.

            IE – in the end analysis, living a purposefully suicidal lifestyle even while claiming one isn’t suicidal, is still a version of suicide; as if an addict like this does die via OD, how would one say it’s unintentional?

    2. If you want to compare the relative dangerousness of different drugs, yes. But the main point is that prohibition is not doing shit to reduce the harm associated with drug use. I’d be interested to see the breakdown in pharmaceuticals of how many deaths were from legally obtained drugs versus black market.

      I’m surprised that the undetermined category is so big. If they are going to declare that a person died of an OD, shouldn’t they have some idea what caused it?

      1. Druggies are subhuman. They die of drugs. Why get into the specifics? It’s not like they’re a person or anything. Just a dead druggy.

        1. Everclear: just another overdose… JUST ANOTHER OVERDOSE!!!!!!!!

          Heroin Girl

      2. But the main point is that prohibition is not doing shit to reduce the harm associated with drug use.

        Just think how much more harm there would be without the prohibition.

  7. Wait a second, people are getting all fucked out of shape over 25 deaths per 100,000?!?!? NO FUCKING WAI! This is beyond retarded.

    1. Sparky, we freak out about the murder rate being 4.5 per 100,000.

      People say we have an unacceptably high murder rate because 2.5 more people per 100,000 die than in Canada.

      Think about how inconsequential that number is. People fucking suck at math.

      1. Ever notice that when a statistic changes from, say, 3 per 100,000 to 4.5 per 100,000, it will be sold as a 50% increase?

        OMG! A 50% increase! That’s HUGE!

        1. The freakouts about number of cops killed each year is another good example of this phenomenon.

        2. These days greenies freak out over a pollutant detectable as parts per trillion. And ask them what the atmospheric percentage of CO2 is now. Only the most informed will say .04%.

      2. Well, it’s double the rate. Double!

        Yeah people really don’t get that doubling, or even multiplying by 10 a really tiny risk still results in a really tiny risk. It’s like when you hear that X will triple your risk of some kind of cancer. Sounds like a terrible thing, but if your risk was only .3% to start with, it’s really not much of a worry.

      3. It would be cool if someone had the ability to collect 100,000 into one room, then get some retard to watch the room, then tell five people to leave and see if the retard notices the difference.

        “Well you’d know the difference if it was YOUR KID WOULDN’T YOU?!?!?!” would be the expected response.

        1. Its called a Michigan football game.

          Anyone going to notice if 5 people leave the stadium?

          1. If one of them was Denard Robinson, Michigan’s number of turnovers might have been less than five, so that would have clued them in.

      4. I don’t know that anyone is really freaking out over our murder rate. What they freak out about is when good white people are killed, especially with gunz#!~!~!@

        1. They’ll freak out about the rate when it serves their purpose. Like when comparing it to the rate in countries with more gun restrictions. It’s the individual murders where they pick and choose which ones to freak out about.

  8. What caused the big boom in alcohol related deaths about 2006-2007?

    1. There was a jump (overall) following 9/11. Then the one I saw. Which times well with housing crisis.

      1. Democratic majority in the house and senate.

        1. ^Should have been a reply to robc.

  9. If the powers that be were TRULY concerned about harm and deaths, that would make narcan readily available OTC. That shit is magick

    1. Seriously. I’m sure most of the pharm. deaths are from opioid narcotics too, so that would take out a huge chunk.

      1. Aren’t most of those deaths from the acetaminophen mixed into the pills than the the opiods themselves?

        1. I don’t think so.

  10. If you check the comments on the link, it looks like Mary has taken up the cause of BAD, BAD, BAD SUGAR!

    1. What’s worse is there are backup singers for that tune.

  11. According to the DEA, “all illegal drugs are equally harmful”. The graph must therefore be wrong.

    And don’t think about questioning the DEA – these are the people who smash down your front door, rip out your walls and shoot your family pet all for the cause of keeping marijuana illegal. And (lol) YOU pay them to do it.

    1. They only do it because they are there to help you. Help you hard. Really hard. Oh yeah. They’re only there to help. Hard.

  12. I guess the 400,000 people who die from cancer and other cigarette-related illnesses each year aren’t technically “overdoses” and therefore don’t appear on the graph?

    1. Not drug overdoses, anyway. It’s not the nicotine that gives you cancer.

      Nicotine is pretty toxic, though. I wonder how many nicotine OD deaths there are?

      1. Not many. Burning destroys most nicotine, and nausea causes most ingested tobacco to leave the body.

  13. One other thing that’s really stupid about these stats is that many, if not most, overdoses are poly-drug overdoses. It’s a lot easier to kill yourself using two or more drugs at once than using any single drug.

    1. Oops, Feeney pretty much addressed that in the article. Never mind.

  14. For all you drugged out losers pointing at the sliver of OD’s from pot – it’s because the “Unspecified” deaths are all from marijuana. The Devil has a way of hiding His Weed in the blood of teh childrenz. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

  15. It’s terrifying. I agree there should be more controlled on pharmaceuticals

  16. Interesting that the bands for all the prohibited drugs are nearly constant. Victory is just around the corner!

  17. very nice publish, i definitely love this website, keep on it

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