Drug War 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, otherwise, it is allocated as a cost of drug war as explained below.

Categorizations and Values for Drug War Costs (2002 $billions)
Category 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
Lost Wages Due to Incarceration $22.961 $24.110 $25.607 $27.130 $28.473 $30.511 $33.257 $35.399 $36.244 $36.869 $39.095
Crime Careers $24.617 $24.595 $23.796 $23.812 $27.241 $29.824 $27.180 $26.952 $26.836 $26.957 $27.576
Drug Abuse Related Illness $18.214 $17.138 $19.234 $20.938 $23.241 $22.323 $25.542 $26.995 $28.654 $30.681 $33.452
Police/Prison $18.470 $18.857 $20.371 $22.508 $22.763 $23.590 $24.922 $26.146 $27.036 $28.067 $29.051
Federal Drug War Budget $11.90 $12.20 $12.20 $13.30 $13.40 $15.20 $15.80 $17.70 $18.50 $18.10 $18.80
Private Legal Defense $0.468 $0.483 $0.521 $0.528 $0.510 $0.585 $0.605 $0.555 $0.596 $0.643 $0.647
Grand Totals $96.63 $97.38 $101.73 $108.22 $115.63 $122.03 $127.31 $133.75 $137.87 $141.32 $148.62

Sources: The Economic Costs of Drug Abuse in the United States,
Office of National Drug Control Policy (Dec 2004)
National Drug Control Strategy (2002)

Notes: Police/Prison costs in the graph are the aggregated costs of Police Services, Legal System Costs, State & Federal Corrections, and Local Corrections. See the source document for a complete breakdown of those individual costs.

Federal drug budget figures are taken from the 2002 ONDCP National Drug Control Strategy -- before they started 're-calculating' the budget costs.

Costs of Drug War

Lost Wages Due to Incarceration - this is the largest single cost cited in the ONDCP study, and represents 21.7 percent of the total costs claimed. According to the report (p. III-18): "In 2002 there were about 663,000 individuals incarcerated on drug-related offenses: 475,000 for violations of drug laws, and another 190,000 for drug-related property or violent crimes." Thus, about 72 percent of this cost simply would not exist were it not for waging the drug war, and the remaining 28 percent could be more accurately described as "money acquistion" related, and treated accordingly.

Police Services - if the drugs were legal, then the cost of making 1.6 million annual drug-law arrests would disappear. The police services thus "lost" to society could be put to use for addressing actual crimes.

Legal System Costs - ditto

State and Federal Corrections - ditto

Local Corrections - ditto

Federal Drug Budget - well duh!

Private Legal Costs - again, if people weren't being charged with "crimes" involving only drug-law violations, these resources would be available for other purposes.

Drug Abuse Related Illness - this is a totally invented cost. The ONDCP study says that this number is derived by calculating the number of people who have used marijuana or cocaine for 100 times or more during their lives and multiplying that by the Bureau of Labor Statistics cost of living index. While the people who did the study said in the 2001 version: "changes in the number of individuals using marijuana and cocaine for more than 100 days may not be closely related to drug abuse related illness," that language has been removed from the 2004 study -- but it is still an entirely invented cost.

Crime Careers - like the number for drug abuse related illness, this one is entirely invented. Were the various drugs legal, criminally minded folk would have a much more difficult time making a "career" from drug dealing. Being a criminal has little to do with drugs -- it has to do with acquiring money. And, according to the ONDCP study, this number is calculated as 35% of the total estimated number of "hard core" heroin and cocaine users. Thus, even among the "hard core" addicts, committing crimes to get money for drugs is the exception.

truth: the Anti-drugwar Anti-drugwar Arsenal Accept the $1 Challenge