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The White House
For Immediate Release

Office of National Drug Control Policy Releases Report Indicating Majority of Arrestees in 5 major U.S. Cities Test Positive for Illegal Drugs At Time of Arrest


Findings Support Need to Implement Reforms Outlined in Administration’s Recently Released Drug Policy Blueprint; White House Drug Policy Director Cites Need to Treat Addiction, Expand Alternatives to Incarceration

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy  called for expanding criminal justice reforms aimed at addressing the underlying causes of criminal behavior in light of new data confirming the nexus between drug use and crime. During keynote remarks delivered at the Urban Institute, Kerlikowske released the results of the 2012 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Annual Report (ADAM II), which indicates that in 5 cities/counties, more than half of adult males arrested for crimes ranging from misdemeanors to felonies tested positive for at least one illegal drug. The five cities are: Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; New York, NY; and Sacramento, CA.

According to ADAM II, positive test results among arrestees ranged from 62 percent in Atlanta to 86 percent in Chicago.  Other key findings from the report include:

  • While over 60 percent of arrestees in all five sites had at least one drug in their system at the time of arrest, 70 percent of those testing positive for any drug had never been in any form of drug or alcohol treatment, highlighting the need to expand access to services that address underlying substance use disorders among this population.

  • In all of the sites more than 80% of the arrestees had a prior arrest: ranging from 83% in New York to 91% in Chicago.

  • Cocaine use among arrestees has declined in each city/county measured since 2000. This decline tracks with a variety of other data indicating a significant disruption in the U.S. cocaine market.

  • There has been a significant increase in opiate use (i.e. heroin, painkillers) in 2 of the 5 sites with historically low levels of opiate use (Denver and Sacramento), and a significant decrease in two sites with historically large percentages of arrestees testing positive for opiates (New York and Chicago).

“To stop the revolving door of the criminal justices system in America we must address not only serious criminal activity but, equally important, the underlying substance use disorders,” said Kerlikowske. “This report confirms an urgent need to support policy reforms outlined in the Administration’s new drug policy strategy that emphasize prevention, treatment, and ‘smart on crime’ policies that break the vicious cycle of drug use, crime, and incarceration in America.”

“This study contributes significantly to our understanding of links between drug use and crime in America,” said Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Justice Policy Center for the Urban Institute. “These high rates of drug use among arrestees indicate that we must work to support effective approaches like prevention and treatment that address the root cause of criminal involvement, and not just the symptoms.”

According to separate data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 53 percent each of jail and state inmates, and 46 percent of Federal inmates in America have a drug use disorder—and yet only 7 percent of jail inmates, 15 percent of state inmates, and 17 percent of Federal inmates with abuse or dependence receive treat­ment.[i]

In April, the Obama Administration released a science-based drug policy that addresses the national drug challenge as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue. The 2013 National Drug Control Strategy, is built upon the latest scientific research demonstrating that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that can be successfully prevented, treated, and recovered from. As a result, the Strategy directs Federal agencies to expand community-based efforts to prevent drug use before it begins, empower healthcare workers to intervene early at the first signs of a substance use disorder, expand access to treatment for those who need it, and support the millions of Americans in recovery.

ADAM II is a unique Federal data collection program that shows drug use patterns among arrestees. In each of the five U.S. cities/counties included in the program, data are collected from adult male arrestees, through voluntary interviews and drug tests, within 48 hours of arrest. The sample is drawn from all adult males arrested, not just those arrested on drug charges. Tests are conducted to detect the presence of the following drugs: marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines/methamphetamine, Darvon, PCP, benzodiazepines, methadone, and barbiturates. ADAM II does not test for alcohol.

To view the entire report, click here

The Office of National Drug Control Policy seeks to foster healthy individuals and safe communities by effectively leading the Nation’s effort to reduce drug use and its consequences.


[i] Karberg,J.C.,& James,D.J.(2005).Substance dependence,abuse,and treatment of jail inmates, 2002.Washington,DC:Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Mumola,C.J.,& Karberg,J.C. (2006,rev. 2007).Drug use and dependence, state and federal prisoners,2004.Washington,DC:Bureau of Justice Statistics.