Survey Data Highlight the Tenuous Relationship Between Drug Panics and Reality

Fear of meth, bath salts, salvia, MDMA, and heroin correspond loosely, at best, to actual trends in drug use.



This week the University of Michigan researchers who oversee the long-running, government-sponsored Monitoring the Future Study released a revealing report on drug use trends from 1975 through 2014. In my latest Forbes column, I discuss some of the ways in which the data contradict prohibitionist pronouncements:

Last year I noted the disconnect between rising public alarm about methamphetamine and falling rates of use. By 2005, when Newsweek identified "The Meth Epidemic" as "America's New Drug Crisis" in a sensational cover story, illicit methamphetamine use had been declining for years. A new report on data from the government-sponsored Monitoring the Future (MTF) Study, which surveys eighth-graders, 10th-graders, 12th-graders, college students, and young adults, makes a similar point:

"Methamphetamine questions were introduced in 1999 because of rising concern about use of this drug; but a decline in use has been observed among all five populations in the years since then, through about 2012. In 2014 annual use in all five populations was very low—particularly among college students (0.1%). These substantial declines occurred during a period in which there were many stories in the media suggesting that methamphetamine use was a growing problem—an example of the importance of having accurate epidemiological data available against which to test conventional wisdom."

That is not the only way in which MTF data contradict, or at least complicate, the warnings of drug warriors and their flacks in the press. Here are a few more examples that struck me while reading the report.

Read the whole thing.