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70+ Drug-Related Crime Statistics & Facts

Drug-related crime is a complex issue that affects many communities around the world. It is a multifaceted problem that involves a range of criminal activities, including drug possession, drug trafficking, drug-related violence, and other drug-related offenses.

Drug-Related Crime Statistics

  • Drug-related offenses account for approximately 17% of all reported crimes globally.
  • In the United States, drug-related crimes make up a significant portion of arrests, with over 1.5 million drug-related arrests occurring each year.
  • The global illicit drug market is estimated to be worth over $500 billion annually.
  • Drug trafficking is responsible for a substantial portion of organized crime activities worldwide.
  • Approximately 25% of state prisoners in the U.S. have been incarcerated for drug-related offenses.
  • Drug-related violence contributes to a significant number of homicides and violent crimes globally.
  • The opioid crisis in the United States has led to a dramatic increase in overdose deaths, with over 70,000 reported in 2019.
  • Cocaine trafficking is a major source of income for criminal organizations in South America.
  • Mexico has experienced a surge in drug-related violence, with over 35,000 drug-related homicides recorded in 2020.
  • The illegal drug trade is linked to other criminal activities, such as human trafficking and money laundering.
  • In many countries, drug-related crimes are associated with gang violence and territorial disputes.
  • Drug addiction is often a driving factor behind property crimes, including theft and burglary.
  • The production and distribution of methamphetamine have become a significant concern in various regions, including North America and Southeast Asia.
  • Cannabis cultivation and distribution contribute to organized crime activities in many parts of the world.
  • The use of illegal drugs has been linked to an increased risk of engaging in risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence.
Total Arrests on NCDAS

Drug Arrest Statistics

  • In the United States, there were approximately 1.9 million drug-related arrests in 2019.
  • Drug offenses accounted for about 15% of all arrests in the United States in 2019.
  • Marijuana-related offenses constituted the largest portion of drug-related arrests, with over 545,600 arrests in 2019.
  • Arrests for drug abuse violations (possession or use) made up the majority of drug-related arrests, comprising about 86% of all drug arrests in the United States in 2019.
  • The rate of drug arrests in the United States is higher for males compared to females, with males accounting for about 78% of all drug arrests in 2019.
  • Racial disparities exist in drug-related arrests. In the United States, Black individuals are disproportionately arrested for drug offenses, with Black people accounting for about 27% of all drug-related arrests, despite comprising only about 13% of the population.
  • Drug-related arrests are more prevalent among younger individuals. In 2019, about 45% of drug-related arrests in the United States were of individuals under the age of 25.
  • The total number of drug-related arrests in the United States has been gradually decreasing in recent years. For example, in 2009, there were over 1.6 million drug-related arrests, compared to the 1.9 million arrests in 2019.
  • The specific types of drugs involved in drug-related arrests can vary. In addition to marijuana, arrests are commonly made for offenses related to cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and prescription drugs.
  • Law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels play a role in drug-related arrests, with some agencies focusing on specific types of drugs or particular geographic areas known for drug trafficking.
Drug Related Crime Statistics [2023]: Offenses Involving Drug Use

How Many People Sentenced to Prison for Drug Related?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in 2019, approximately 77,500 individuals were sentenced to state prisons for drug offenses in the United States.

Other Statistics Related to Drug

  • The illegal drug trade fuels corruption and undermines governance in many countries.
  • Drug-related crimes impose a substantial economic burden on societies, including costs related to law enforcement, healthcare, and lost productivity.
  • The rise of darknet marketplaces has facilitated the sale of illicit drugs, making it harder for law enforcement to combat drug-related crimes.
  • In some countries, drug possession offenses can result in severe penalties, including lengthy prison sentences or even the death penalty.
  • Drug-related crimes disproportionately affect marginalized communities and contribute to social inequalities.
  • Prescription drug abuse has become a significant problem in many countries, leading to an increase in thefts and illegal sales of prescription medications.
  • The production and trafficking of synthetic drugs, such as MDMA (ecstasy) and synthetic opioids, have risen in recent years.
  • Drug-related crimes often involve the use of firearms, leading to an increased risk of gun violence.
  • Illicit drug use has been linked to an increased risk of domestic violence and child abuse.
  • The illegal drug trade has been connected to environmental degradation, such as deforestation and chemical pollution.
  • Drug-related crimes contribute to the spread of infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, through needle sharing and unsafe drug use practices.
  • The diversion of prescription medications for non-medical use has become a significant concern, leading to stricter regulations and monitoring.
  • Drug-related offenses can result in long-term criminal records, making it challenging for individuals to reintegrate into society and find employment.
  • Drug-related crimes have a significant impact on public safety, leading to increased policing efforts and strain on law enforcement resources.
  • The production and trafficking of illegal drugs often involve transnational criminal networks and cross-border operations.
  • Drug-related crimes can lead to social unrest and instability, particularly in regions heavily affected by drug trafficking and drug cartel violence.
  • The use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports has led to an increase in illegal drug distribution networks.
  • Drug-related crimes contribute to the spread of addiction and substance abuse problems within communities.
  • The illegal drug trade undermines efforts to promote public health and harm reduction strategies.
  • Drug-related offenses are often associated with high rates of recidivism, indicating the need for comprehensive rehabilitation and treatment programs.
  • The smuggling of drugs across international borders involves sophisticated methods, including the use of concealment in vehicles, cargo, and even human carriers.
  • Drug-related crimes pose a significant challenge to international cooperation and require coordinated efforts between countries to combat them effectively.
  • The use of designer drugs and novel psychoactive substances presents unique challenges for law enforcement due to the constantly evolving nature of these substances.
  • Drug-related crimes can have devastating effects on families and communities, leading to broken relationships, financial hardship, and psychological trauma.
  • Addressing the root causes of drug-related crimes, such as poverty, social inequality, and lack of access to education and healthcare, is crucial in developing effective long-term solutions.

People Sentenced to Federal Prison for Drug Related Crimes Yearly

  • In 2019, approximately 3,363 individuals were sentenced to federal prison for drug offenses.
  • In 2017, approximately 3,848 individuals were sentenced to federal prison for drug offenses.
  • In 2016, around 3,181 individuals were sentenced to federal prison for drug offenses.
  • In 2015, approximately 3,337 individuals were sentenced to federal prison for drug offenses.

Most Common Crimes Associated with Drug Addiction

  • Drug Possession: Individuals struggling with drug addiction may engage in the possession of illegal substances for personal use.
  • Drug Trafficking: Some drug addicts may become involved in the distribution and sale of illegal drugs to support their addiction or for financial gain.
  • Theft and Robbery: Addicts may resort to theft or robbery to obtain money or valuables to purchase drugs. This can include shoplifting, burglary, or armed robbery.
  • Fraud and Forgery: Drug addicts may engage in fraudulent activities such as identity theft, credit card fraud, or check forgery to acquire funds for drugs.
  • Prescription Drug Fraud: Some individuals with addiction may obtain prescription drugs illegally by forging prescriptions or engaging in doctor shopping (visiting multiple doctors for the same prescription).
  • Prostitution: In order to obtain money or drugs, drug addicts may engage in sex work or trade sexual favors.
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI): Drug addicts may drive while impaired by drugs, resulting in DUI offenses and endangering themselves and others.
  • Violence and Assault: Drug addiction can lead to impulsive behavior, aggression, or altercations, resulting in incidents of violence or assault.
  • Domestic Violence: Substance abuse can contribute to increased tensions and conflict within relationships, potentially leading to incidents of domestic violence.
  • Drug-related offenses: Drug addicts may engage in other drug-related crimes, such as manufacturing illicit substances, cultivating marijuana, or possessing drug paraphernalia.

Drug-related Crime Statistics by Age Group

Adolescents and Young Adults:

  • Studies show that drug use and drug-related crimes are more prevalent among adolescents and young adults compared to other age groups.
  • In the United States, the highest rates of illicit drug use are typically found among individuals aged 18 to 25.
  • Drug-related offenses, such as possession and distribution, are commonly committed by young adults involved in drug use or drug trade.


  • Drug-related crimes can occur across various age groups of adults.
  • Some adults may engage in drug-related offenses to support their addiction or due to involvement in the drug trade.
  • The prevalence of drug-related crimes can vary depending on factors such as socio-economic status, access to treatment, and availability of drugs in the local area.

Older Adults:

  • While drug-related crimes are more commonly associated with younger age groups, drug abuse and related offenses can also occur among older adults.
  • Older adults may face challenges related to prescription drug abuse, including illegal acquisition of prescription medications or drug diversion.
  • In some cases, older adults may engage in drug-related crimes due to long-standing substance abuse issues or as a result of age-related vulnerabilities.

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