Let's end drug Prohibition. That's the case I'll make on tonight's show (FBN @ 8pm & midnight ET). We've waged a war on drug use for forty years. It has only made us less safe.
I'll start the show off by interviewing (debating?) Sean Hannity. Then we'll hear from Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron and Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady. Reason's Radley Balko will talk about the rise in raids by paramilitary SWAT teams, like the one that barged into the home of Cheye Calvo and shot both his dogs. Calvo was innocent, and in fact, the mayor of the town. Finally, we'll hear from two former cops who have fought the drug war -- one believes in the war; the other believes we should end it.
There will be lots of statistics quoted during the show. In case you wonder where they came from, I'll post links to some here.
What surprised me most was the government's own drug use data, which I first came across reading Jacob Sullum's book, "Saying Yes". I’d heard that crack and heroin are so different from alcohol, so addictive, that just one hit will addict someone for life. But the government's survey data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Statistics Administration show that only 5% of people who have tried crack or heroin have used it in the last month. In other words, millions of people who’ve tried these “ irresistibly addictive” drugs voluntarily stop using them.
On the other hand, 28% of people who have tried alcohol got drunk in the last month.
How can that be? If crack and heroin are as addicting as we hear, you'd expect much higher numbers ... higher than alcohol, certainly.
Rates for addiction, specifically, are more difficult to measure. The diagnosis is subjective and still debated in mental health circles. The highest figures for addiction come from a 1994 study that said addiction rates for heroin were 23.1%, cocaine 16.7%, and alcohol 15.4%. However, a subsequent study argued those estimates are too high. Government studies found far lower rates of addiction: "dependence" within two years of trying cocaine were 3.7%. Alcohol was close behind at 3.2%.
Another surprising set of statistics is the relative rate of drug use in Europe. Countries like the Netherlands and Portugal tolerate certain types of drug use. You might expect their rates to be higher, but they are generally lower than America’s.
If you hear any other stats in tonight's show that have you scratching your head, post a comment on this blog and we'll try to address it.