Mapping the Drug Crisis

How dull life would seem from the vantage point of our own quiet neighborhoods were it not for the mayhem that prevails elsewhere. A new poll about drugs, commissioned by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, is the latest to exhibit respondents’ confidence in their locality and despair about the country at large. As you can see from the chart, fewer than one American in 10 called drug abuse a “crisis” in their neighborhoods. The study does, though, detect a rise during the past two decades in the number who’ve seen drug abuse up close. Asked whether drugs have ever been “a cause of trouble in your family,” 21 percent of respondents in the current poll said “yes.” That compares with 19 percent in a 1995 poll, 14 percent in 1988 and 9 percent in 1985. (Might this partly reflect an increase in candor rather than in doping?) While stereotypes link drugs to the big city, rural folk were more likely than urbanites to say drugs are the No. 1 problem in their communities. Meanwhile, why do teens try illicit drugs? “Peer pressure” was the leading culprit (cited by 82 percent). Of course, this leaves unanswered the question of what made those peers go bad.