Annals of Decriminalization

Drug use among teens, by race and drug of choice; the continued rise of prescription opiate abuse; no further insight into Emanuel’s thoughts on decriminalization; and more.

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A couple things of note from the war on the war on drugs:

1. There’s an interesting new study about teenage drug use out of Duke University, based on a very large survey (over 72,000 responses). The big headline is that white teens (12-17) are far more likely to abuse drugs than black teens, which is worth considering given possession-arrest disparities and the role that plays in the city’s ongoing decriminalization debate. But there’s some other interesting stuff too, particularly this:

Among kids who abused illegal drugs, marijuana was the most prevalent choice, followed by prescription opioids such as oxycodone, which have passed inhalants such as glue as a means of getting high.

As I mentioned recently, I was surprised at the rate at which prescription opiod abuse continues to climb, well out of proportion to other drugs. A decade ago, when I was living in Virginia, I remember when the oxycodone panic was really getting started and it picked up the nickname “hillbilly heroin,” because of its origins—as a widely abused drug, at least—in rural Appalachia, as Paul Tough documented for the New York Times back in 2001. It’s shown no signs of abating:

In other words, while emergency department visits due to the use of illegal drugs has declined slightly over the past few years, visits due to legal drugs have doubled. The breakdown is pretty dramatic:

Marijuana use (13 percent of all adolescents) was the most prevalent of all drug classes, and analgesic opioids (7 percent) was more prevalent than other drug use (range 0.1 percent to 4 percent). Native Americans (20.5 percent), multiple race/ethnicity (18.1 percent) and white race/ethnicity (16.2 percent) had a higher prevalence of using both alcohol and drugs than other groups.

2. Toni Preckwinkle and Tom Dart talked various law-enforcement issues on WBEZ’s 848 this morning. Preckwinkle unfortunately couldn’t give us any more insight into the mind of Mayor Emanuel on decriminalization than his noncommital public statements have implied.

3. While researching something completely different, I came across a reminder that there are no new political issues under the sun.

That’s from June 11, 1931, in the midst of an even worse economy. It’s the legalization trifecta: tax revenues, jobs, and the ability to regulate the psychoactive agents in controlled substances. And if we hurry, we can speed along the process of the inevitable Growlight Empire HBO series and Ken Burns documentary.

 

Photograph: garritron (CC by 2.0)

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