5-city study: Many arrested men test drug-positive

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Linking a lack of drug treatment to crime, a new government study released Thursday found that more than half of adult males arrested for crimes in five metropolitan areas tested positive for at least one illegal drug last year. At the same time, fewer than three out of 10 of those arrested had ever received any form of alcohol or drug treatment.

The data from the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy argues for expanded treatment programs and dovetails with the Obama administration’s efforts to confront drug use as a health issue and not only as a crime.

“We cannot incarcerate addiction out of people,” said Michael Botticelli, acting director of National Drug Control Policy. “Drug use and crime are inexorably linked, and we must address the root of this challenge by treating the underlying substance use disorders that contribute to driving crime in our communities.”

The study surveyed inmates in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, New York’s borough of Manhattan and Sacramento, California. It found that the ratio of men who tested positive for drugs ranged from 63 percent in Atlanta to 83 percent in Chicago and Sacramento.

The main drug of choice was marijuana, detected most frequently among those arrested. And while powder or crack cocaine use showed a continuing drop since 2000, the study found increases in the proportion of arrested men with opiates such as heroin and morphine in their systems.

What’s more, less than 14 percent of the arrested men reported getting any treatment in the past year.

Most of those studied in the five cities had prior arrests, from a low of 82 percent in Sacramento to 94 percent in Chicago. The study’s authors said that represented a significant increase since 2003 in all the cities surveyed except for Sacramento.

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press.