Drug Use Cost Breakdown
(2005 Update)

When allocating the overall costs to either a cost of drug use or a cost of drug war, the primary consideration was: is this a cost that would exist if the drugs were legal? If so, it was allocated as a cost of drug use, as explained below. Otherwise, it is allocated as a cost of drug war.

Categorizations and Values for Drug Use Costs (2002 $billions)
Category 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
Premature Death $28.961 $27.877 $28.034 $28.406 $23.745 $19.901 $19.323 $22.535 $23.045 $23.686 $24.646
Health Care Costs $13.659 $14.662 $14.673 $13.996 $13.158 $13.236 $13.756 $14.044 $14.128 $14.861 $15.845
Productivity Loss
of Victims of Crime
$2.640 $3.098 $3.100 $2.806 $2.674 $2.570 $2.279 $2.111 $1.930 $1.835 $1.800
$1.894 $1.870 $2.043 $2.210 $1.758 $1.863 $1.971 $1.873 $1.782 $1.870 $1.996
Social Welfare $0.337 $0.418 $0.432 $0.442 $0.446 $0.434 $0.417 $0.317 $0.275 $0.253 $0.235
Property Damage $0.247 $0.285 $0.280 $0.256 $0.245 $0.233 $0.205 $0.206 $0.206 $0.206 $0.206
Grand Totals $47.74 $48.21 $48.56 $48.12 $42.03 $38.24 $37.95 $41.09 $41.37 $42.71 $44.73

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

Table Notes:

Health Care Costs are mostly from Community Based Specialty Treatment (approx 38% of total health care costs) and HIV/AIDS treatment (approx 24% of total health care costs) for a combined 62% of the total Health Care Costs.

Costs of Drug Use

Premature Death - frankly, this is a bogus cost, partly because it is based on all deaths called "drug-related" (even those caused by pharmaceuticals, or secondary to the drug use itself -- such as AIDS and hepatitis cases caused by shared needles), but mostly because it is an estimate of lifetime earnings lost by those who died. To keep it in perspective would require that this number be prorated to cover the extended number of years the person may have otherwise been alive. In any event, this cost has actually declined 15 percent from 1992 to 2002, paralleling a 9 percent decrease in the number of such deaths.

To really put it in perspective: while the ONDCP study claims a total 23,544 "drug-related" deaths in 2002, such deaths add up to less than one percent of the total 2,443,387 deaths that took place that year. Is the "cost to society" for the rest of those 2.4 million total deaths a whopping $2.57 trillion in "lost productivity?"

Health Care Costs - 62% of total health care costs are accounted for by Community-Based Treatment programs and through the costs of treating those HIV/AIDS cases claimed as drug-related. In 2002, this combined total was estimated at approximately $9.7 billion. The costs of drug related emergency room visits are included here and added up to only $1.45 billion, or 0.8 percent of overall costs in 2002.

Institutionalization/Hospitalization - this is the cost in lost earnings of those in drug treatment programs.

Victim's Productivity - the cost of lost wages by victims of drug-related crime. This figure has declined 32 percent from 1992 to 2002, paralleling a 25 percent decrease in property crime arrests. This decrease indicates that less crime is "drug-related," despite increases in past year drug use.

Crime victim's property damage - the cost of damage done to the property of the victims of drug-related crime. As you can see, in real dollars, that cost has declined by 16.6 percent from 1992 to 2002.

Social Welfare - even though the ONDCP study makes the claim that those convicted of drug offenses are not eligible to get such aid, they claim it as a cost. No need to quibble, as it is such a low dollar cost (relatively speaking) to begin with, but also because that particular cost actually declined by 30 percent from 1992 to 2002.

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