Drug Policy

As Heroin Use And Teenage Pot Smoking Fall, Alarm About Them Rises


If you pay attention to drug warriors and their collaborators in the press, you may be under the impression that heroin use and teenage pot smoking are on the rise. In my latest Forbes column, I explain that the government's own survey data contradict those claims. Here is how the piece starts:

Survey data released last week by the federal government cast doubt on a couple of widely accepted beliefs about drug use trends: 1) that the nation is in the midst of an escalating "heroin epidemic" and 2) that loosening marijuana prohibition encourages teenagers to smoke pot.

In the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the number of respondents who reported using heroin in the previous month fell by 14 percent last year, despite ever-rising concern about a new "heroin epidemic." While NSDUH probably misses a substantial number of heavy users (exactly how many is unclear), the trends identified by the survey still should indicate whether heroin consumption is on the rise or on the wane (as both government officials and journalists tend to assume). Hence it is instructive to compare past-month heroin use measured by NSDUH (in thousands of users) with mentions of a "heroin epidemic" in the newspaper and wire service articles collected by Nexis. On the face of it, there is no clear relationship between the level of heroin use and the level of press attention to it.

Read the whole thing.

NEXT: Brickbat: How Can You Have Any Pudding?

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  1. Perhaps the drug warriors should focus their panic on the scourge of onanism.

    1. “When you pry it from my cold dead hand ….”

      “Ninety percent of men masturbate, and the other ten percent are liars.”

  2. Maybe some good can come out of the panic:


  3. Because we’re fighting a war on drugs! Now be a good sheeple and join the stampede! Facts and logic are not a suicide pact!

  4. I’m convinced most drug use in this country is pot by a wide margin.We all know,and I think the drug warriors do too,it’s not really that dangerous.Making it legal would take huge sums of money from the cartels and show the lie the WODs is.They need as many drug scares as possible to keep the war going full force.The press of course,will print anything that’s scares the public,

  5. As Heroin Use And Teenage Pot Smoking Fall, Alarm About Them Rises

    It seems to me that this is backwards: as alarm about these drugs rises, use falls (or use initially rises in proportion with alarm and then falls).

  6. NSDUH

    “That’s why it’s called ‘dope’!”

  7. I have been in law enforcement since 1996. I do believe that drugs should be decriminalized. I do not believe there is a heroin “epidemic”. However due to the evidence that I see everyday I believe the results of the cited studies concerning heroin are incorrect. As a probation officer in New Orleans in the late 90’s I had only one person who was convicted for heroin. As a New Orleans police officer in a proactive unit assigned to arguably the worst area of the city, the 9th Ward, I made only one heroin arrest. As a deputy with another south Louisiana agency I never made a heroin arrest until the last several years. I am now a property crimes detective. A rough estimate of all of the burglars and thieves arrested in the last year by my section I can confidently say that at least half but more likely 75% have an opiate addiction. I can pin point the exact time frame this increase happened in my area. Several years ago the Louisiana government mandated a prescription database for narcotics prescriptions. This was done to combat the so called “Pill Mills” for pain management. Shortly after this system went into effect heroin use in this area rose dramatically. I have had several subjects point blank tell me they used to do oxy but now heroin is easier to get, cheaper, and gives a better high. I do not know the reason my personal first hand knowledge and experience conflicts with the cited studies but it definitely does.

    1. “New Orleans police officer in a proactive unit assigned to arguably the worst area of the city, the 9th Ward,”

      Well, at least they had the best music.

  8. Just like racism, sexism, homophobia, pollution, drunk driving: the better things get, the more frantic and extreme the reformers become.

  9. “As Heroin Use Sexual Assault And Teenage Pot Smoking Gun Violence Fall, Alarm About Them Rises”

    in fact, you could pretty much list anything that people seem to want to panic about these days. Except maybe Ebola. But still: Malaria still kills lots more people.

    1. I see the person right before me already said this.

      (looks for can to kick. fails. slinks away)

      1. That’ll teach you to not ignore my posts….

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