Exposing the Myths About
The "Costs" of Drug Use
(2005 update)

At long last, the ONDCP has updated it's 2001 study on the "costs" of drug use in America. While the numbers have all been updated, the fundamental flaw in the study remains. That flaw is that rational thinking about the overall cost impact of drug abuse cannot be based on the drug czar's model using the three major cost aggregations as shown below.

If, as a society, we wish to take a more rational approach in assessing these various costs, it seems that a better idea would be to compare the costs of drug abuse to the costs of trying to stop drug use. I did it before and after doing it again here, I must emphasize again, that: trying to stop people from using drugs is still costing us more than three times as much as the drug abuse itself.

Here's How It Looks to the Drug Czar:

Let's Make Three Piles Productivity Costs
Health Care Costs "Other" Costs

Source: The Economic Costs of Drug Abuse in the United States,
Office of National Drug Control Policy (Dec 2004)

But Here's How It Looks to Me:

Making Sense of the Economic Costs
ONCDP Categorizations My Categorizations
of Cost Type
Cost Component Cost Type
Drug Treatment Health Care Drug Use
Health Infrastructure and Support Health Care Drug Use
Medical Consequences Health Care Drug Use
Premature Death Productivity Drug Use
Drug Abuse-related Illness Productivity Drug War
Productivity Drug Use
Crime Victim Productivity Productivity Drug Use
Incarceration Productivity Drug War
Crime Careers Productivity Drug War
Criminal Justice System Other Effects Drug War
Private Legal Costs Other Effects Drug War
Social Welfare Other Effects Drug Use
Federal Drug War Budget Health/Other Drug War


Only portions of the total Federal Drug War Budget is allocated in the ONDCP figures. Those portions include the cost of Federally Provided Treatment allocated as part of Health Costs, and the costs of Supply Reduction allocated as part of "Other Effects."

For Complete Cost Breakouts See:
Lost Productivity Drug Use
Health Drug War

My intent is not so much to challenge the individual cost elements themselves, or the specific calculation methods of said cost elements used in the ONDCP's study. Rather, my intent is to put these numbers into a more coherent context that will allow easier understanding and more rational consideration of them.

I believe that the cost categorizations (lost productivity, health care costs and "other" costs) used in the ONDCP study are actually a disservice to our society, and serve more to obfuscate rather than illuminate the realities of the economic impacts of drug abuse in our society.

Thus, I used all of the same cost elements as the drug czar's office, but I've arranged them into two easier to understand and more functionally useful piles: the costs of drug abuse itself, versus the costs of trying to interfere with, hunt down, jail, and sometimes even kill those who use the drugs. Have a look.

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