In a survey conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 76 percent of respondents said alcohol is a serious issue in their communities, more so than any other drug.
In order, respondents ranked alcohol as the most troubling substance, above prescription painkillers, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. Marijuana ranked last on the list. These findings are in line with the CDC’s risk assessment of commonly abused substances and how likely a person is to overdose from each substance.
This study highlights what is already knows about substance abuse in the United States. According to the CDC, more Americans are dying from alcohol, opioid and other drug overdoses than from car accidents. None of those deaths can be attributed to an overdose of marijuana. What’s more, the study shows that Americans want more options, research and resources for treating substance abuse (a task that America fails at compared to other countries) and that may be due to 40 percent of respondents knowing someone who suffers from alcohol or other substance abuse.
Although marijuana is lowest on the list, the study suggests Americans aren’t yet comfortable with fully legalizing marijuana. While 61 percent were in favor of cannabis legalization, 43 percent of those respondents wanted restrictions on how much can be purchased at a time, and about 25 percent supported cannabis legalization only in a medical capacity.
In terms of criminalizing drug use, respondents feel as though different races are more or less likely to be convicted of drug crimes, despite a study showing no major correlation between race and substance abuse. 66 percent of respondents felt is was very likely that an African American suffering from drug abuse would be convicted of drug possession, compared to a 55 percent likelihood for Hispanics and a 30 percent likelihood for caucasians.
Americans also think substance abuse occurs more based on location and socioeconomic conditions. Most Americans think substance abuse is more likely to occur in urban areas (53 percent) and that poor people are more likely to be convicted of drug possession (63 percent) compared to middle and upper class Americans.
The findings from the study illustrate the imbalance between the public’s concerns about specific substances, and their potential for abuse, and government priorities and methods for fighting illegal drug use and criminalizing substance abuse.