Spending Money on the Drug War Really Isn't Lowering Drug Use

Matt Groff's chart arguing the war on drugs isn't working got a lot of flack for methodology. Well, he took it to heart and is back with an updated version with adjusted methodology—and the new chart says even when looking at data based on population, increased spending does not curb usage.

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After catching some flack for the methodology of his original chart, Matt Groff has an updated chart arguing the war on drugs isn't working. The new chart says even when taking in his critics' concerns into account, spending more money on drug control has not decreased the amount of drugs used.

Previously, Groff compared the number of illicit drug addicts to the the federal drug control budget. Critics on his site, our site, and to The Atlantic Wire via email decried Groff's use of data, saying that the numbers were not per capita, were not adjusted for inflation, and were misleading because of a $1.5 trillion figure for overall spending that did not add up in the chart.

For this latest version, Groff looked at spending per 100 citizens and drug users per 100 citizens so that the data is more relative. He also changed all money values to 2012 dollars. The blue line represents drug users in the past month and is calculated from Census data and data from the drug abuse survey from the Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration. The green line represents federal drug control spending and is collected from National Drug Control Surveys from the government. Here is a link to his Google spreadsheet showing all of his sources.

As it turns out, the original chart and updated chart look pretty much the same: There is little correlation between money spent on drug control and drug use, and while spending has skyrocketed, use has remained pretty steady. Of course, the premise of Groff's charts are that drug use is the best metric of success for drug control. For example, John P. Walters,  the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush, has argued that drug control spending is a means to prevent drug use from increasing. Whatever your take on the chart, Groff's opened up the discussion board for changes in the graph at his blog.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.