Press Release

Official Public Health Journal Blasts U.S. Drug Policy

U.S. Drug Enforcement Fueling Overdose <br> African Americans Disproportionately Affected

Tony Newman at 510-208-7711
WASHINGTON, DC -- The forthcoming issue of Public Health Reports harshly criticizes U.S. drug policy, arguing that increased U.S. drug enforcement has fueled overdose deaths and drug-related emergencies. In the January/February 1999 issue of Public Health Reports, the official journal of the U.S. Public Health Service, the lead article reveals how U.S. policies have led to dramatic increases in drug-related overdose deaths and emergency room visits.

"From a public health point of view, drug prohibition is a disaster," said Dr. Ernest Drucker, a professor of epidemiology and social medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York and author of the study. "While our government officials claim success in reducing drug use, drug-related deaths and diseases have increased sharply. That's the best measure of the impact of our drug policies -- and they are failing."

The author of the study, Dr. Ernest Drucker, explains that while whites, Hispanics and African Americans use drugs at the same rates, African Americans are far more likely to be arrested for drug-related offenses and to suffer a higher rate of emergencies and overdose deaths.

"Perhaps the publishing of this article signifies a greater willingness by the public health establishment to challenge American drug war strategies," said Ethan Nadelmann, founder and director of the Lindesmith Center.

Specific Findings Of The Study

Drug Enforcement Gets The Resources

  • Annual state and federal drug enforcement expenses are estimated at more than $40 billion, compared with less than $8 billion for all treatment, research and prevention in the U.S. from all government and private sources.
Drug Use Has Dropped, But Er Visits And Overdoses Have Increased</</p>

  • From 1978 to 1994, drug-related emergency room visits rose by 60% (from 323,100 annually to 518,500) and overdoses increased by 400% (from 2500 to 10,000).
Drug Purity Is Up, Prices Are Down

  • The average purity of street heroin increased dramatically between 1981 and 1996, from 6.7% to 41.5%.

  • From 1981 to 1996, the average price per gram of cocaine fell by 66%.
African Americans Disproportionately Affected

  • African Americans are almost 20 times more likely to be incarcerated for drug law violations, despite similar use rates among whites, blacks and Hispanics.
Dr. Drucker, a Senior Fellow with the Lindesmith Center, is also Editor-in-Chief of the journal Addiction Research. Full text of his article is available on the world wide web at

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