Thursday, January 22, 2009

America’s Top Drug Cities

And the winner is.... Espanola, N.M.?

Forbes Magazine, in an  article by Nathan Vardi last year, listed what it calls “The Drug Capitals of America.”

Using data from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA)--two not-always-terribly-reliable federal agencies--Forbes announced that the small agricultural community of Española, with a population of about 10,000 Hispanics and a high poverty rate, consistently leads the nation in drug overdoses per capita. “Española recorded 42.5 drug-related deaths per 100,000, compared with a national average of 7.3,” Forbes reports.

Not unaware of the problem, the New Mexico state government has begun a program of distributing Narcan, the overdose-reversing drug, and now grants immunity from prosecution for those who seek help for an overdose victim, Forbes reports.

Coming in for special consideration this year is Missoula, Montana, which SAMSHA claims has the highest rate of illicit drug use in the nation. According to the survey, “averages taken in 2004, 2005 and 2006 showed 13.8% of households polled in the Missoula region reported using illicit drugs in the last month.” The state has recently been in the throes of a mammoth methedrine epidemic, say the drug agencies, with as many as 50 per cent of the state’s prisoners now incarcerated for meth-related crimes.

Washington, D.C. held on to its well-earned reputation as a cocaine hub, with SAMSHA reporting that the 2nd Ward in the nation’s capital “had the highest rate of cocaine use of any area it polled in the nation.” The city racked up 75 cocaine overdoses in 2006.

Baltimore, for its part, has run up staggering numbers of heroin-related overdoses. "Baltimore is home to higher numbers of heroin addicts and heroin-related crime than almost any other city in the nation," says the Drug Enforcement Administration.

New Orleans, now leading the nation in murder rates, has seen new drug turf wars. Says Forbes: “At 95 murders per 100,000 people, New Orleans led the nation in killings by a wide margin in 2007.”

And finally, let us not forget San Francisco, home of the highest rate of illegal drug-related emergency room visits in the nation. SAMSHA’s survey estimated that there were 809 illicit drug-related emergency room visits per 100,000 in the San Francisco area. “Heroin remains the No. 1 abused drug in San Francisco, while heroin and crack cocaine continue to impact Oakland, says the DEA.”

As a footnote, look for Atlanta to score heavily in next year’s survey. Drug-related crimes are on the increase, and Forbes suggests that “Atlanta has become the East Coast distribution hub of the violent Mexican cartels that now dominate the drug trade.”

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