Scientific American reported in 1990: “The alarming statistics, cited by testing advocates, to demonstrate the high costs of drug abuse . . . do not always accurately reflect the research on which they are based. In fact, some of the data could be used to ‘prove’ that drug use has negligible or even beneficial effects.” (March 1990, page 18)
One of the examples given is the often cited statistic former president George Bush utilized in 1989: “Drug abuse among American workers costs businesses anywhere from $60 billion to $100 billion a year in lost productivity, absenteeism, drug-related accidents, medical claims and theft.” Yet according to a 1989 assessment by NIDA, all such claims derive from a single study that grew out of a 1982 survey of 3,700 households.
The Research Triangle Institute (RTI) found that households where at least one person admitted having used marijuana regularly reported average incomes 28% lower than average reported income of otherwise similar households. RTI researchers ascribed the income difference to “loss due to marijuana use.”
RTI then extrapolated costs of crime, health problems and accidents to arrive at a “cost to society of drug abuse” of $47 billion. The White House “adjusted” for inflation and population increases to provide the basis for Bush’s statement.