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What's New At Drug War Facts
Volume 3, Issue No. 2
March 2013

Current data. New research. Evolving policies.

The one constant in life is change. In the policy world, keeping up to date is important. Using outdated data can get you in trouble, certainly damage your credibility.

For example, on Feb. 16, 2013, a Rhode Island legislator was called out by PolitiFact Rhode Island, a partnership of (the Pulitzer Prize-winning Web site of the Tampa Bay Times) and the Providence Journal for making the claim that young people find marijuana easier to get than alcohol.
"Rhode Island State Rep. Edith Ajello says studies indicate minors find it easier to get marijuana than alcohol,"…

As Politifact put it, “If she’d referred to how easily young people could purchase one or the other, and she’d said it in 2009, there would be more support. But all the most recent, credible, national studies we found showed that teenagers report it’s easier to get alcohol than marijuana.”

Why 2009? For years, researchers with the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) found that young people reported it was easier to buy marijuana than to buy beer, “buy” being the operative verb. In 2010, CASA changed the wording of its survey question. Rather than ask “Which is easier to buy?” as they had done for years, CASA began asking instead “Which is easier to get?”
CASA, “National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens,” August 2012.

Figure 7.H on page 29 of that CASA report shows that in 2009, 14% of youth reported beer was easier to buy. This was similar to previous years: 2006, 14%; 2007, 17%, and 2008, 15%. In 2010, after the wording was changed, 26% reported beer was easier to “get.” That beer figure has remained fairly static since: 23% in 2011 and 24% in 2012.

The percentage responding that marijuana is easiest to get took a big dive in 2010 to 15% from 26% the year before (when CASA asked about buying), then went up to 22% in 2011, then down to 19% in 2012 – which are close to the figures for earlier years (21% in 2006, 19% in 2007, 23% in 2008, and 26% in 2009 reporting marijuana was easier to "buy").

The number reporting that cigarettes are easiest to get or to buy has changed very little over the time period; no changes due to the change in the question are noticeable (28% in 2006, 26% in 2007, 25% in 2008, 26% in 2009, 27% in 2010, 26% in 2011, and 27% in 2012.

Here's another example: In 2002, the Justice Policy Institute issued a report titled “Cellblocks or Classrooms.”…

The title of that report's Finding Number 3 was: “Nearly a third More African American Men Are Incarcerated than in Higher Education.”

JPI has come under fire for that statement in recent years – most notably in the film Hoodwinked
Release: JPI Stands by Data in 2002 on Education and Incarceration, Oct. 3, 2012
but also by people such as Professor Ivory Toldson of Howard University. In his April 20, 2011 piece in Empower Magazine, “Cellblock vs. College: A Million Reasons There Are More Black Men In College Than In Prison And Why More Work Needs To Be Done,”
Professor Toldson writes:
“When reviewing Cellblocks or Classrooms, there’s no evidence that the authors intended to sensationalize problems facing black men in the United States. More meaningful and palatable lines like “choose classrooms over cellblocks” were written with more prominence. Today, the widespread and contentious notion that “there are more black men in jail than in college” is not the fault of the Justice Policy Institute. Rather, it is the fault of journalists looking for a sound bite, politicians trying to arouse a crowd, program managers and researchers who would rather assert the need to exist than to demonstrate the efficacy of their techniques, and the list goes on of people who feel the need to be intentionally provocative. Lost in the feedback are young black men who are trying to reconcile such an ominous conclusion with their reality.”

Here then are the numbers which support what Professor Toldson wrote.

A search through the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Post‐Secondary Education Data System (IPEDS) finds that in the 2009-2010 school year, there were 1,347,485 Black or African-American male students enrolled in Title IV 2- and 4-year colleges (including public as well as private for- and nonprofit schools).

The Drug War Facts section on Race and Prison
actually has newer data, so looking back at “Prisoners in 2010,” a report by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
we see that in 2010 there were a reported 561,400 non-Hispanic Black males under state and federal jurisdiction. In addition, according to BJS's publication “Jail Inmates at Midyear 2010 – Statistical Tables”
there were 283,200 Black/African-American inmates of either gender in local jails. So there were a maximum of 844,600 Black/African-American men behind bars that year – many fewer than were in college.

Things change. If you're an activist or engaged in policy debate, it's important to keep up with these changes, and stay current. Up-to-date fact items are always to be found on the Drug War Facts website. Be sure to check back from time to time. You can also keep track of new fact items as they're added by subscribing to our RSS feed at

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Favorite new items:

“In 2010, there were 38,329 drug overdose deaths in the United States; most (22 134; 57.7%) involved pharmaceuticals; 9429 (24.6%) involved only unspecified drugs. Of the pharmaceutical-related overdose deaths, 16,451 (74.3%) were unintentional, 3780 (17.1%) were suicides, and 1868 (8.4%) were of undetermined intent. Opioids (16,651; 75.2%), benzodiazepines (6497; 29.4%), antidepressants (3889; 17.6%), and antiepileptic and antiparkinsonism drugs (1717; 7.8%) were the pharmaceuticals (alone or in combination with other drugs) most commonly involved in pharmaceutical overdose deaths. Among overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics, the pharmaceuticals most often also involved in these deaths were benzodiazepines (5017; 30.1%), antidepressants (2239; 13.4%), antiepileptic and antiparkinsonism drugs (1125; 6.8%), and antipsychotics and neuroleptics (783; 4.7%).”
Source: Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, Karin A. Mack, PhD, and Leonard J. Paulozzi, MD, "Pharmaceutical Overdose Deaths, United States, 2010," Journal of the American Medical Association, February 20, 2013, Vol 309, No. 7, p. 658.
This item and more in Annual Causes of Death

“We identified cohorts of individuals hospitalized in California from 1990 to 2005 with ICD-9 diagnoses of methamphetamine- (n = 74,170), alcohol- (n = 592,406), opioids- (n = 68,066), cannabis- (n = 47,048), cocaine- (n = 48,949), or polydrug-related disorders (n = 411,175), and these groups were followed for up to 16 years. Age-, sex-, and race-adjusted standardized mortality rates (SMRs) for deaths due to MVAs were generated in relation to the California general population. Standardized MVA mortality ratios were elevated across all drug cohorts: alcohol (4.5, 95% CI, 4.1–4.9), cocaine (3.8, 95% CI, 2.3–5.3), opioids (2.8, 95% CI, 2.1–3.5), methamphetamine (2.6, 95% CI, 2–3.1), cannabis (2.3, 95% CI, 1.5–3.2) and polydrug (2.6, 95% CI, 2.4–2.9). Males and females had similar MVA SMRs.”
Source: Russell C. Callaghan, Jodi M. Gatley, Scott Veldhuizen, Shaul Lev-Ran, Robert Mann, and Mark Asbridge, "Alcohol- or Drug-Use Disorders and Motor Vehicle Accident Mortality: A Retrospective Cohort Study," Accident Analysis and Prevention, 53 (2013) 149–155,
This item and more in Drugged Driving

“In December 2009, the GOC [Government of Colombia] approved a law that prohibited the possession and consumption of small, "personal," amounts of illegal drugs. However, in August 2011, the Colombian Supreme Court overturned this law, finding that Legislative Act No. 2, 2009, which banned the personal use of drugs, "implies the nullification of fundamental rights, and it represses and sanctions with the severest punishments (imprisonment) the personal decision to abandon one‘s personal health, a choice that corresponds to their own decision and does not infringe on the rights of other members of society." The Supreme Court then set the "personal amount" of drugs at 20 grams of marijuana and 1 gram of cocaine.”
Source: United States Department of State Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, "International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Volume I: Drug and Chemical Control (Washington, DC: March 2012), p. 174.
This item and more in Colombia

New Research Material:

Russell C. Callaghan, Jodi M. Gatley, Scott Veldhuizen, Shaul Lev-Ran, Robert Mann, and Mark Asbridge, "Alcohol- or Drug-Use Disorders and Motor Vehicle Accident Mortality: A Retrospective Cohort Study," Accident Analysis and Prevention, 53 (2013) 149–155,

"Colombia: Evaluation of Progress in Drug Control 2007-2009." Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM). Washington, DC: January 2011. OAS/Ser.L/XIV.2.48, CICAD/docx.1843/10, p. 34.…

Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2013). Monitoring the Future national results on adolescent drug use: Overview of key findings, 2012. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, p. 52, Table 2.

Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, Karin A. Mack, PhD, and Leonard J. Paulozzi, MD, "Pharmaceutical Overdose Deaths, United States, 2010," Journal of the American Medical Association, February 20, 2013, Vol 309, No. 7, p. 658.

Media Appearances:

Drug Truth Network Radio segments:
Feb. 16, 2013: New Monitoring The Future Survey Report
Feb. 22, 2013: Fact-checking the Drug Czar
Feb. 24, 2013: GAO report on efforts to control methamphetamine production
March 10, 2013: Fact-checking the fact-checkers

DWF Editor/CSDP Board Member Doug McVay also appears regularly on the weekly half-hour news shows Cultural Baggage
and Century of Lies

The Drug Truth Network has begun production of a video news show focused on the drug war, for which DWF Editor Doug McVay is creating content. The Unvarnished Truth is broadcast weekly via Houston's HMSTV, and is available to view online at