BLOG: When my animated chart recently went somewhat viral, there were some significant, and on-point, questions about how the Addiction Rate vs Federal Spending represented what the research for my film project has shown: spending on drug control has no correlation to drug usage in this country. So I decided in the interest of transparency to recreate the chart using only metrics with online resources available to verify the data.
This required a few changes.
- first, I’ve switched from Addiction Rate to Past Month Prevalence (ie. how many people have used drugs in the past month) as that data is more readily available online even though, as I believe, Addiction Rate is a better indicator of the severity of the drug problem;
- second, I have adjusted all financial totals for Federal Drug Control Spending to 2012 dollars;
- third, I declined to input Federal Budgets from 2004-2009 because of reporting inconsistencies in those budgets (explanation here);
- fourth, I made some estimates based on marijuana data ( approximately 90% of all drug use in the 1970s) in order to come up with an estimate of total drug use for 1973 and 1976;
- lastly, I have charted everything as it relates to 100 citizens. I made the last choice because I did not think that a straight per capita relation would make sense. Would people understand that 0.087 people per capita used drugs in the Past Month in 2011? Or is it easier to understand that 8.7 people out of 100 used drugs in the past month? I think the latter.
I would not be surprised if, in the eyes of statisticians and those more statistically inclined than myself, I’ve somehow still confused the proper way to do this. If that’s the case, please let me know in the comments. Also, if anyone has some better resources to fill in any data gaps, I’d love to hear about it.
Additionally, I would love to find the costs, shown over time, that express the financial cost of drug prohibition on our criminal justice system and on our prison system. If anyone has a heads up on an online resource for that, please message me. I feel confident, as Jack Cole expresses in my trailer, that the costs associated with this failed system of prohibition is at least $1.5 trillion over the course of the drug war. One last note – the $545 billion figure is a tad low as it does not account properly for expenditures in the years 2004-2009 as noted above.
Here is a Google Spreadsheet with all the data sourced (opens in new window).
And below is the resulting graphic. (Click to enlarge and see the animated version).