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31 Drug-Related Crime Statistics & Facts [2023]

Drug abuse is a complex and multifaceted problem that affects individuals, families, and communities across the United States. The devastating consequences of substance use and addiction demand urgent action and compassionate support for those who are struggling.

August 8, 2023

The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic that continues to devastate communities across the country. The impact of drug use on the nation's crime rates is a topic of ongoing interest, with new statistics being released on a regular basis.

U.S. Drug-Related Crime Statistics & Facts

According to the latest statistics, drug-related crimes continue to be a major concern for law enforcement agencies across the country. Here are the top 10 highlights of the statistics:

  1. In 2020, there were 1.5 million drug-related arrests in the U.S.
  2. Drug arrests accounted for 31% of all arrests in the country.
  3. Marijuana violations made up 43% of all drug-related arrests.
  4. Methamphetamine and cocaine violations accounted for 22% and 22.5% of drug-related arrests respectively.
  5. Overdose deaths in the U.S. increased by 29.4% in 2020.
  6. Over 70,000 deaths were reported due to drug overdoses in 2020.
  7. Opioids were involved in over 69% of all drug overdose deaths.
  8. The number of prescription opioid overdose deaths decreased by 36% in 2020.
  9. The number of heroin overdose deaths decreased by 22% in 2020.
  10. The number of synthetic opioid overdose deaths increased by 55.6% in 2020.

The statistics paint a grim picture of the effect of drugs on the country. The ongoing opioid epidemic has had a significant impact on the number of drug-related crimes and overdose deaths. While there have been some decreases in the number of prescription opioid and heroin overdose deaths, the increase in synthetic opioid overdose deaths is alarming.

Interesting Drug-Related Crime Statistics

Drug-Related Arrest Statistics

Source: rit.edu
  • Every year, 1.16 million individuals are arrested for drug-related crimes.
  • 13.3% of all drug-related arrests are for the sale or manufacture of drugs.
  • Marijuana accounts for 11.0% of all drug arrests.
  • Possession of controlled substances is responsible for 86% of all drug-related arrests.


  • A staggering 85% of prison inmates abuse drugs or alcohol.
  • Every year, 244,000 Americans are incarcerated for drug-related crimes.
  • Within two years of release, 60-80% of drug offenders are rearrested.

Drug-Related Crime Homicides Statistics

Source: rit.edu
  • Drug use is linked to 86.4% of homicides.
  • Drug dealing is linked to 64.2% of homicides.
  • Both drug use and dealing are involved in 58.0% of homicides.

Despite efforts to combat drug use and related crime, illicit drugs remain a major problem in society. The war on drugs has not been successful in eradicating drugs from our streets, and it is unlikely to do so despite tougher laws. This has led to grossly overcrowded prisons with substantial costs of incarceration.

Drug users are statistically more likely to commit crimes than non-users, and as long as drugs are available, the cycle of drug use and crime will continue. The statistics on drug-related crime in America are concerning, with millions of arrests made each year, and a large percentage of inmates abusing drugs or alcohol.

We hope these disturbing numbers will motivate individuals to avoid drugs or seek treatment if they are currently using. By doing so, they can avoid becoming part of these alarming statistics and contribute to a healthier, safer society.

Marijuana-Related Arrests in the United States

Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States, and its use has been a topic of much debate. While some states have legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, it remains illegal under federal law. Here are some statistics related to marijuana-related crimes in the United States:

  • In 2020, 43% of all drug-related arrests were related to marijuana violations.
  • Of those arrests, 92% were for possession rather than sale or manufacture.
  • The number of marijuana arrests has been declining in recent years, with a 35% decrease between 2010 and 2020.
  • Despite this decrease, there were still 546,000 marijuana-related arrests in 2020.

It is important to note that these statistics vary widely by state and region. Some states have decriminalized marijuana use or even legalized it entirely, while others continue to enforce strict penalties for possession and sale. Additionally, the racial disparities in marijuana-related arrests are a cause for concern, with Black Americans being disproportionately arrested for these crimes.

Cocaine and Opioid-Related Crimes: The Alarming Statistics

Cocaine and opioid-related crimes have been on the rise in recent years, contributing to the overall increase in drug-related crimes across the United States. The impact of these drugs on individuals, families, and communities cannot be overstated. Here are some statistics related to cocaine and opioid-related crimes:

  • In 2020, cocaine violations accounted for 22% of drug-related arrests in the U.S., while opioids were involved in over 69% of all drug overdose deaths.
  • The number of prescription opioid overdose deaths decreased by 36% in 2020, but synthetic opioid overdose deaths increased by 55.6%.
  • Cocaine use has been linked to violent crime, with users more likely to commit robberies and assaults than non-users.
  • Opioid abuse is linked to a range of negative outcomes, including addiction, overdose, and death.

It is clear that cocaine and opioids continue to be a major concern for law enforcement agencies across the country. However, it is important to note that addiction is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach. Access to treatment, education about the dangers of drug use, and support for those struggling with addiction are all critical components of addressing this issue.

Tracing U.S. Drug-Related Crime Statistics

Over the past few years, there has been a consistent increase in the number of drug-related crimes, and the trend is expected to continue in the coming years.

I. Drug Abuse: A Major Social Issue in the United States

  1. The United States is facing a social malaise of drug abuse, with 19.4% of Americans having used illegal substances at least once in 2021.
  2. Out of the 280 million people aged 12 and older in the U.S., 31.9 million are drug users, with 11.7% on illegal substances and 19.4% either having consumed illicit drugs or misused prescription drugs in 2020.
  3. Cannabis use has increased by 15.9% between 2018 and 2019, with legal sales hitting a record $17.5 billion in 2020 despite federal prohibition.
  4. Opioid use is a primary driver of the spike in drug-related deaths, with over 75,000 Americans dying from opium overuse between April 2020 and April 2021.
  5. Alcohol abuse results in the death of 95,000 people each year in the U.S., and over 60% of Americans increased their consumption of alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  6. Adolescents experience the fastest rise in drug overdose deaths, with a significant number starting to consume illicit drugs upon graduation from high school.

II. The Significant Social Costs of Drug Abuse in the United States

  1. Drug overdose has a significant impact on the U.S. population, leading to a high death toll, reduced labor force, and lower life expectancy.
  2. According to a report in Science, the number of American deaths from drug overdose has been increasing exponentially for the last 38 years, with a record high of 72,000 deaths registered in 2017.
  3. Drug abuse is prevalent in almost all states in the United States, with only a few exceptions.
  4. In the year following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 100,000 people in the United States died from drug overdose - eight times that of shooting incidents and nearly tripling the number of deaths in traffic accidents.
  5. Drug abuse engenders frequent social problems, including damage to cranial nerves, family discord, violent crimes, and psychological trauma in children.
  6. People caught using illegal drugs may be punished by being separated from their family and deprived of job opportunities, welfare assistance, public housing and voting rights.
  7. Drug control incurs tremendous social costs such as crime fighting, health care, productivity loss, drug education, and prevention and treatment of other social problems.
  8. Fighting drug-related crimes and health care cost the most. Since 1971, the United States has spent one trillion U.S. dollars combating drug-related crimes.
  9. In 2017, the cost of drug control in the United States exceeded 270 billion U.S. dollars.

Costs of Drug-Related Crime

Drug-related crime places a significant financial burden on the government, as well as other negative impacts on society. The following statistics help to illustrate the scale of this problem in America:

  1. State and local governments spend an estimated $129 billion each year on police resources to combat drug-related crime.
  2. The cost of housing drug offenders in prisons is estimated at $86 billion per year.
  3. An estimated $51 billion is spent each year on court proceedings related to drug offenses.
  4. Roughly $34 billion is spent annually enforcing drug policies.
  5. The annual cost of imprisoning drug offenders in the US is approximately $10 billion, with an average cost of $37,500 per inmate per year.

Aside from these financial costs, drug-related crime has numerous negative effects on society, including:

  • Breakdown of families
  • Loss of productivity among workers
  • Overburdened law enforcement

Additionally, drug use and trafficking have other negative consequences, such as environmental risks posed by meth labs due to toxic chemicals and fumes that pollute the air and seep into groundwater. Illegal cultivation of coca plants and marijuana plants also has a significant impact on forest land.

Overall, the impact of substance use, trafficking, crime, and deaths is wreaking havoc on major cities and small towns alike.

Impact on Communities

Drug-related crimes have a far-reaching impact on communities throughout the country. The rise in overdose deaths has led to a staggering increase in the number of children in foster care and placed an enormous strain on social services. The cost of addiction treatment and healthcare has also put a significant burden on the economy.

Some of the other ways that drug-related crimes impact communities include:

  • Increased Crime Rates: Drug use and drug-related crime often go hand in hand, leading to increased crime rates and a general sense of insecurity in communities.
  • Decreased Property Values: The prevalence of drug use and drug-related crime can lead to decreased property values in affected areas, making it more difficult for residents to sell their homes or attract new businesses.
  • Strained Healthcare Resources: The cost of treating drug addiction, overdose, and other related health problems can be exorbitant, placing an enormous strain on healthcare resources and driving up costs for both patients and providers.
  • Loss of Productivity: Drug use can lead to decreased productivity in the workplace, causing ripple effects throughout the economy and further straining already-tight budgets.
  • Stigmatization and Discrimination: Individuals who struggle with drug addiction or have been convicted of drug-related offenses often face intense stigmatization and discrimination, making it difficult for them to reintegrate into society and access valuable resources.

Overall, the impact of drug-related crimes on communities is complex and multifaceted, affecting everything from public safety to property values to healthcare resources.

Law Enforcement Response

Law enforcement agencies have been working to combat drug-related crimes by increasing patrols and cracking down on drug trafficking. However, the statistics show that there is still a long way to go. In addition to traditional law enforcement methods, there has also been a push for more community-based approaches to address the underlying causes of drug addiction.


Drug abuse is a significant problem in the United States, with devastating consequences for individuals and society as a whole. Drug overdose deaths have been increasing exponentially for decades, with over 72,000 recorded in 2017 alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened this crisis, leading to more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the year following its outbreak.

The social costs of drug abuse are also significant, including reduced labor force participation and lower life expectancy. While the causes of drug abuse are complex and multifaceted, lobbying from interest groups such as large pharmaceutical enterprises and marijuana businesses has prevented substantive action from being taken.

The financial costs of drug-related crime are staggering, with state and local governments spending an estimated $129 billion each year on police resources to combat drug-related crime alone. The cost of housing drug offenders in prisons is estimated at $86 billion per year, while an additional $51 billion is spent on court proceedings related to drug offenses. Overall, the impact of substance use and trafficking is wreaking havoc on major cities and small towns alike.

Drug-related crimes have far-reaching impacts on communities throughout the country, including increased crime rates, decreased property values, strained healthcare resources, loss of productivity among workers, and stigmatization and discrimination against those struggling with addiction or who have been convicted of drug-related offenses.

Law enforcement agencies have been working to combat drug-related crimes by increasing patrols and cracking down on drug trafficking. However, there is still much work to be done.


  • Drug Enforcement Administration. (2021). 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts.
  • DrugAbuseStatistics.org. "Drug-Related Crime Statistics."
  • Drug Policy. "Arrests and the Criminal Legal System."
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Criminal Justice."
  • DrugAbuseStatistics.org. "Drug Overdose Death Rates."
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2018). Drugs and Crime: A Link That Can’t Be Ignored.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2019). The Relationship Between Alcohol and Violent Crime.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Overdose Death Rates.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Cocaine Research Report: What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

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