Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Meth to the West, Cocaine to the East, Pot in the Middle

The geography of drug use.

To paraphrase an old tune by Gerry Rafferty, we got meth to the left of us, cocaine to the right, and here we are, stuck in the middle with pot.

The National Drug Threat Survey of 2007, a product of the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) at the Department of Justice, illustrates the stark nature of regional variation when it comes to illegal drugs of choice in the United States. The map at the right represents the responses of state and local law enforcement agencies to the question: "What drug poses the greatest threat to your area?" Blue indicates cocaine, red indicates methamphetamine, and green stands for marijuana. (Click map for larger image.)

According to the Oregonian in Portland, reporting on similar numbers from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: "The politics of methamphetamine have been shaped by geography. Lawmakers from the East, Midwest and South focused on cocaine--the most heavily abused drug by far in their home states. By contrast, more than 90 percent of people treated for meth abuse live west of the Mississippi River."

The NDIC's stated mission is "to provide strategic drug-related intelligence, document and computer exploitation support, and training assistance to the drug control, public health, law enforcement, and intelligence communities of the United States...." NDIC obtains its data through direct surveys of federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence agencies, as well as information from court documents, news sources, and public health agencies.

The NDIC has produced a National Drug Threat Survey annually since 2000, and began deriving state-level estimates in 2003. Federal, state and local government agencies use the statistical estimates as guidelines for promulgating drug legislation and enforcement strategies.

Graphics Credit: National Drug Intelligence Center

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