City Desk

D.C. No. 1 in Cocaine Use

The news that D.C. tops the nation in cocaine use, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is hard to process. It's like finding out that Los Angelenos read the most books or that Tampa has the fewest back tattoos.

We're Top 5 for marijuana and binge-drinking, which should surprise no one who's bought a jumbo slice on a weekend night, but check out these numbers:

Vermont tops the nation in marijuana use (2.5 percent of people 12 and over get high there), North Dakota flattens all comers in binge drinking (58.1 percent of 18-25-year-olds and 28.7 of folks 26 and up). Cocaine use in D.C. though, is at 5.1 percent, which means there's a reasonable chance someone in your office is going to think s/he is really, really smart and good-looking later this evening.

Photo of someone pretending to snort Chex mix with a Slim Jim (which is more what you'd expect of D.C., drug-use wise) by Flickr user decaf

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  • Hizzonor

    Bitch set us up!

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Whoa - I was chopping up some lines just as this popped up on my screen. Coca leaves are even better - just chew a few & you'll feel great.

  • Q

    Hizzonor, your comment much like the photo is ridiculous in poor taste. The devil is indeed in the details/data. If you check out the survey you will find the following statements regarding the data, "the survey collects data by administering questionnaires to a representative sample of the population through face-to-face interviews at their place of residence." and "Using data drawn from interviews with 135,672 persons from throughout the country ..." With those two statements, one could argue that folks voluntarily take the survey, indicating that if they don't want anybody knowing about their drug use, they would decline. Plus, "homeless people who do not use shelters, active military personnel, and residents of institutional group quarters, such as prisons and long-term hospitals" were excluded from the list. Likewise, "Incentive payments of $30 were given to respondents for the first time"

    Considering all of that, you get an idea that this sampling isn't that all that scientific or objective. The maps are cool though.

    If I was a Health Department in an Urban area, I don't know if I would give a lot weight to this report. Namely because rank of drug use amongst the other 50 states doesn't necessarily mean that you have less or more of an epidemic. It means that of all the folks willing to participate, these folks admit to needing help.

    "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." ~Mark Twain

    More good ones can be found at

  • KCinDC

    Isn't this the usual sort of report comparing DC to states? If cocaine is an urban problem, then it's not surprising that a 100% urban area has a higher rate than states that have a mix of urban and rural. I'd be willing to accept the misleading statistics if we were a state, but we're not. How does DC compare to other *cities*?

  • Mike DeBonis

    I second KC's objections!

  • Dave

    I third them.

  • Jim

    Also, best lead ever.

  • Jule Banville

    I second it's the best lead ever. Although Beaujon also wrote a Best Of piece on awkwardly shaped coffee tables with what has become one his hallmarks: "Rooms. We all have them."

  • Q

    No offense, but what good is a LEAD if the story has NO SUBSTANCE or EMPTY?

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Q, you're obviously not familiar with blogging.

  • Q

    I am Andrew. Yes your story generated some buzz, but the content falls flat when it is examined further. When the "article" is dissected for its merit, beyond the sensationalistic language, it is empty. Not saying that articles shouldn't entertain as well as inform, but this article in particular paints a possibly inaccurate picture to the novice Washingtonian. Statistics alone are bad enough but YOUR line, "Cocaine use in D.C. though, is at 5.1 percent, which means there’s a reasonable chance someone in your office is going to think s/he is really, really smart and good-looking later this evening." is corny and insensitive to those suffering from drug abuse.

    BTW, a "lead" in Journalism is defined as:

    a.a short summary serving as an introduction to a news story, article, or other copy.
    b.the main and often most important news story.


    weblog or "blog" is defined as:

    A website that displays in chronological order the postings by one or more individuals and usually has links to comments on specific postings.

    {courtesy of}

    Based on both of those definitions, I am well within my right and familiarity to post and interpret the way I did/do.

    Andrew, I'm not knocking your writing, just the subject matter. Geez, relax.

  • sara.h

    Q = City Desk's newest hater (who won't shut up about how much he thinks it sucks).

  • Glynis


    I don't know why anyone would be surprised that DC has a high percentage of self-confessed cocaine users. All those transplanted, student government, type-A personalities obsessed with minute variations in perceived clout...

    All I know is that, as soon as I became aware of recreational drug use, there was always cocaine available--whether at parties or bars. It's around. A lot. Always has been.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    You're right, Q. I need to relax.

  • Q

    Wow sara.h, did you write that just to draw my ire? :^x LOL! City Paper is and always will be my FAVORITE paper to read and now blog on. Unlike the bloated WP and tightly controlled WT, City Paper is truly a paper where community interest isn't some "catch phrase" but it means something. I wouldn't blog or "be the newest Hater" if I didn't sincerely care about what is being offered here.

    True, I might've busted the chops of Jason, Mike, etc. but they have come back at me with some stuff too. Iron sharpens iron. I don't take it personally (I hope they don't), and believe it or not, I don't comment on every article sent. But based on your designation of the "newest" hater, I'm sure I'll be unseated in due time. LOL! Y'all have a good weekend.

    P.S., Glynis that was some *funny* stuff you wrote.

  • Jason Cherkis

    Maybe the high rate of coke use is related to our high concentration of NIMBYs who fight over everything.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Or NIMLL - "not in my left nostril"?

  • Truth Hurts

    Did they poll any city council members? Just asking.

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  • David

    Nothing surprises me anymore... The war on drugs is the biggest joke... Obviously someone is on the take to allow it to come into the country...

  • Martin

    Although I too was intrigued by these startling numbers, it did remind me of a bogus report put out by CQ Press a few years back saying my hometown Hayward had one of the highest crime rates in the nation. I'm still curious, though. Does DC have an unusually high rate of cocaine use? And can someone tell me if there's a way to find out how much of those figures include crack cocaine use? Also, does this now mean DC should have it's own episode on Discovery Channel's "Cocaine Nation?" (I'm only half serious)

  • Columbine Jones

    Heroin is better.

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  • Dnuts

    K St (clubs and white collars) and Connecticut club circuits responsible for 4% of the 5.1, I bet.

  • Meeza

    Late to catch up here as I wiping my nose (cold, seriously) but, um, would not statistically anyhow, crack be higher than cocaine? Or are they considering it all in one?