More than 60 Percent of Males Arrested in 2011 Used Drugs, Federal Survey Shows

By Fred Lucas | May 17, 2012 | 5:16pm EDT

Alleged drug trafficker Juan Carlos Calle Serna, right, looks down while escorted by police in handcuffs and body armor after being deported from Ecuador, at a police station in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday March 18, 2012. Calle Serna was captured in Quito, Ecuador on Friday. (AP Photo/Nestor Silva)

( – More than 60 percent of males arrested last year for crimes – felonies and misdemeanors – tested positive for drug use, according to a White House study of arrest data from 10 large cities. For some cities, that surpassed 80 percent.

That’s an uptick for half of the cities evaluated in the 2011 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Annual Report from the previous year, particularly in Washington, D.C. The report also shows a small decline in the percentage of arrestees testing positive for drug use in the last five years.

During President Barack Obama’s administration, the percentage of arrestees in three cities testing positive for drugs increased, remained steady in four cities and declined in two – Chicago and Denver.

The report was released Thursday by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The range was from a low of 64 percent of arrestees who tested positive for drug use in Atlanta to 81 percent in Sacramento, Calif. That’s up slightly from 2010 when the range was from 52 percent in Washington to more than 80 percent in both Chicago and Sacramento. It did not evaluate female arrestees.

The 10 cities in the survey were Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Denver; Indianapolis; Minneapolis; New York; Portland, Ore.; Sacramento, Calif.; and Washington, D.C.

The testing was done to detect the following drugs: marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines/methamphetamine, Darvon, PCP, benzodiazepines, methadone, and barbiturates. The study does not test for alcohol.

“Decades of research and experience show us crime and drug use are linked and too often underlying substance use disorders are the driving force of criminal activity taking place in our communities,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy.

“While the criminal justice system will always serve a vital role in protecting public safety, we cannot simply arrest our way out of the drug problem,” Kerlikowske continued. “Instead, we must also support evidence-based program and policies that work to break the vicious cycle of drug use in crime, reduce recidivism, and make our communities healthier and safer.”

The most commonly detected drug was marijuana, which ranged from 36 percent in Atlanta to 56 percent in Sacramento. Chicago, at 55 percent, and Charlotte, 53 percent, came in second and third respectively. The average was 45 percent.

The report showed some positive signs, as those testing positive for cocaine use have declined by about half since 2000, when it was at 50 percent. Cocaine was still the second most commonly used drug among those arrested in 2011 in eight of the 10 cities. The two exceptions were Sacramento – where 23 percent used methamphetamine – and Portland – 43 percent of those arrested used meth.

The trend for opiates such as heroin and prescription painkillers, increased significantly, going up in five of the 10 cities. In Chicago and New York, opiate use declined by about half from the rate in 2000. But in Denver, Indianapolis, Sacramento and Minneapolis, use more than doubled over those 11 years.

Of those who admitted to drug use in the previous year, only 15 percent sought outpatient treatment, the study said.

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