S.D. Prisoners Rank High in Drug Use Tests

United Press International

A large majority of those arrested in 14 major cities nationwide--including 80% in San Diego--tested positive during the last three months of 1988 for at least one of 10 illegal drugs, according to the National Institute of Justice.

Most of the men tested for drug use were arrested for felony offenses other than the sale or possession of drugs, said the institute, the principal criminal justice research branch within the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs.

Of the 14 cities, the percentage of arrested males who tested positive for any of the 10 drugs was as follows:

Philadelphia, 82%; San Diego, 80%; New York and Chicago, 78%; New Orleans, 75%; Birmingham and Portland, 70%; Detroit, 69%; Cleveland, 68%; Dallas and Phoenix, 57%; St. Louis, 56%; and, Kansas City, 54%.


In the District of Columbia, 68% of those arrested tested positive for drug use but the D.C. Pretrial Service Agency did not test for marijuana during the fourth quarter of 1988, the institute said.

Women Equal to Men

Institute Director James Stewart said the study found that among those arrested, women tested positive for illicit drugs at about the same rates as men at all test sites.

“In fact, in some cities the percentage of females who tested positive for cocaine was higher than it was for men,” Stewart said. “For many years, it had been thought that males were more likely than were women to be illicit drug users.”


Slightly more than half of the men charged with homicide tested positive for an illicit drug, the institute said, while almost three-fourths of the males arrested for robbery in 13 cities tested positive for one or more drugs.

“The meaning of this study is twofold,” Attorney General Dick Thornburgh said. “There should be no longer any question as to how much of a catalyst for crime the lust for illegal drugs has become in America today. Drug users and trafficker drug crimes have increased to record levels. It is equally clear that law enforcement alone will never win the war on drugs,” he said.

Data for the study was derived from anonymous and voluntary urine specimens and interviews of samples of people arrested for serious crimes, the institute said. The tests looked for recent use of cocaine, marijuana, opiates, PCP, amphetamines, Darvon, Valium, methaqualone, methadone and barbiturates.

Although the majority of those arrested were using drugs, they did not report the need for treatment, the institute said, adding that only about one quarter said they were in current need of drug- or alcohol-abuse treatment.


“This suggests the need for improved supervision, monitoring, or court-mandated requirements for arrestees to stay off drugs and get treatment,” Stewart said.

The institute said the study could have public health implications, noting that about 25% of those tested in 13 cities reported during the interviews that they had injected drugs.

“This suggests that many criminal suspects are at a risk for hepatitis, HIV infection, or developing AIDS--and they are very likely to spread these diseases to the general population,” Stewart said. “This reinforces the need to require defendants to remain drug-free.”

Other highlights from the report include:


- Both long-term and short-term trends show dramatic increases in cocaine use, including cocaine powder and crack. Between May, 1984 and November, 1988, cocaine use in the District of Columbia more than tripled, rising from 18% of those arrested to 62%.

- About 82% of the men arrested in Philadelphia tested positive for at least one illegal drug. About 75% of the men arrested in that city had been using cocaine.

- Cocaine use in New Orleans grew from 36% to 64% among arrested males in about a year. Among arrested females, it grew from 30% to 52%.