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Report: Marijuana use up, cocaine down in Portland, other cities

Marijuana use is growing among men arrested in Portland, Oregon, and nine other major U.S. cities, but fewer are using cocaine, according to the annual report of a federal drug monitoring program. The 2011 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Annual Report, which tracks drug use among arrestees, also says that marijuana is the most commonly used illegal substance.

The annual report is based on thousands of interviews and drug tests of men who are arrested for all types of crimes, not just those involving drugs. More than 60 percent of men arrested last year for crimes from misdemeanors to felonies tested positive for at least one illegal drug. The arrestees were tested for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines/methamphetamine, opiates, barbiturates, Darvon, PCP, benzodiazepines and methadone under the program. The cities tracked include Portland, Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis, New York, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Portland was one of four cities that reported 70 percent or more arrestees tested positive for an illicit drug. The Oregon city also saw one of the highest rises in methamphetamine use among the cities, second only to Sacramento, where meth use rose by 43 percent, according to positive drug tests.

Among all the cities surveyed, cocaine use is on the decline. The director of national drug control policy attributes the fall to education programs and word of mouth in African-American communities about the dangers of crack cocaine, as well as a reduction in Colombia cocaine production. But his strongest message is that drug abuse nationwide needs to be addressed as a public health issue, rather than just a criminal justice issue. Throwing drug users in jail does nothing to curb addiction and related problems. By supporting drug court programs and policies intended to break "the vicious cycle of drug use and crime," he said, recidivism rates can be reduced and communities made safer and healthier.

A chief researcher with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says that drug use must be treated as a chronic illness. Drug use changes the brain structure and impairs decision making, which prevents addicts from being able to control their cravings and leads to crime. By focusing on treating drug users, the cycle of drug use, arrest, incarceration, release and re-arrest could be broken.

Source: MSNBC, "Report: Marijuana use grows, cocaine falls among men arrested in 10 US cities," Jim Gold, May 17, 2012

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