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U.S. Illegal Drug Use Down Substantially from 1970s

By Stephen Kaufman | Staff Writer | 17 April 2012
Official portrait of Gil Kerlikowske (ONDCP)

The ONDCP's Gil Kerlikowske says the United States is aiming for a 15 percent reduction in the rate of domestic drug use by 2015.

Washington — The Obama administration is working to reduce the demand for illegal drugs inside the United States through public health and safety approaches, as well as cooperating with other countries to reduce drug supplies.

The White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released its annual National Drug Control Strategy for 2012 on April 17, and in a press statement the ONDCP said drug use in the United States “has dropped substantially over the past thirty years,” thanks to local, state and federal government efforts, as well as international cooperation.

“The rate of Americans using illicit drugs today is roughly one-third the rate it was in the late '70s. More recently, there has been a 40 percent drop in current cocaine use and meth use has dropped by half,” the press release stated.

It added that to build on this progress, the Obama administration has requested more than $10 billion from the U.S. Congress in its 2013 fiscal year budget request “to support drug education programs and support for expanding access to drug treatment for people suffering from substance use disorders,” as well as $9.4 billion for domestic law enforcement, $3.7 billion for interdiction and $2 billion for international programs.

ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske said in the 2012 report that the United States is aiming for “a 15 percent reduction in the rate of drug use and similar reductions in drug use consequences” during the five-year period covering 2010–2015.

Through U.S. community-based programs and early health care intervention, Kerlikowske said, “we will work to prevent illicit drug use and addiction before their onset and bring more Americans in need of treatment into contact with the appropriate level of care.”

At the same time, “we will continue to counter drug production and trafficking within the United States and will implement new strategies to secure our borders against illicit drug flows. And we will work with international partners to reduce drug production and trafficking and strengthen rule of law, democratic institutions, citizen security, and respect for human rights around the world,” he said.

The report said that through “shared responsibility” and effective cooperation, “the United States — working with international partners — can reduce illicit drug use, production, trafficking, and associated violence” and that reduced supplies “are often closely tied to reductions in drug use and its consequences.”

As an example, the report cited cooperation between the United States and Colombia to disrupt the cocaine market over the past 10 years.

The two countries “have worked together to reduce drug production, strengthen the rule of law, and increase citizen security," which had been threatened by drug-funded terrorist and criminal organizations, and as a result, “potential production capacity for pure cocaine in Colombia was reduced from an estimated 700 metric tons in 2001 to 270 metric tons in 2010, a 61 percent decline,” the report said.

The reduced availability has also led to lower reported rates of cocaine use in the United States, backed up by significant declines in the number of Americans testing positive for cocaine use, the report said.