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Monitoring the Use of Illegal Drugs for Law Enforcement: ADAM II


  • Accurate data on drug use are hard to obtain.
  • ADAM collected drug data from 50,000 arrestees over 13 years.
  • ADAM identified drug use trends and variations among counties.
The Challenge

Existing and emerging drug-use problems can surprise and overwhelm community systems and resources. An accurate understanding of a community’s drug-use problem needs to include the full range of people arrested who may who use drugs, from recreational use to chronic use. People who use drugs heavily are especially hard to locate and aren’t well represented in national and community data collection efforts. In addition, many of these individuals are reluctant to tell the truth about their drug use, making accurate prevalence assessment difficult without external validation.

The Approach

For an accurate picture of drug prevalence, between 2000 and 2013, the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) program interviewed 50,000 arrestees in local booking facilities and jails within 48 hours of arrest. Abt developed a probability-based sample weighted to reflect the county jail population. ADAM collected information on drug prices and markets, treatment needs, homelessness, and trends in illicit drug use and tested urine samples for nine drugs. Abt collected the data for the National Institute of Justice and Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The Results

ADAM identified existing and emerging trends at the local level and variations in drug use across time and across the country. For example, in 2013 half of Sacramento arrestees tested positive for methamphetamine, while fewer than three percent did in East Coast counties. Beginning in 2008, ADAM documented the gradual rise of opiate use in areas and populations not previously experiencing  the problem, foreshadowing the national epidemic. Abt and RAND Corporation analysts have used ADAM data to produce the series, “What America’s Users Spend on Drugs,” which the Office of National Drug Control Policy publishes.