During a group discussion that I was a part of, it was recently asked whether more men or women were arrested for drug offenses. We knew that for virtually every other offense in the Texas Penal Code and related criminal statutes, men are arrested far more frequently than women. (Another way the data puts this is to say that men commit criminal offenses at a higher rate than women; however, I take issue with this phrasing, as an arrest does not necessarily correspond to a conviction/to be determined to have committed.) Nevertheless, I, along with a very experienced, intelligent and practiced group of people involved in the criminal justice system on a daily basis, guessed that, where drug offenses are concerned, men and women would be arrested at a nearly equal rate; and that men and women use drug offenses at about the same rate.
Those guesses, while good guesses, are incorrect. Men account for approximately 75% of all arrests for drug abuse violations, and men report using drugs (all types of illicit drugs) at a higher rate than women.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting information for 2017 (the most recent year I could find data on) listed 966,121 arrests for “drug abuse violations” by men, and 309,691 for women. That puts men at about 76% of all arrests for “drug abuse violations” in 2017 per the Uniform Crime Reporting data. (Note: the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Information data is compiled from arrest statistics for hundreds of police departments across the United States. Many Texas police departments participate in the UCR, and Texas reports statewide arrest statistics to the UCR.)(Another note: about 85% of what the FBI terms “drug abuse violations” are possession offenses, versus selling or manufacturing drugs.)
However, looking back over the past five years, the trend, as reported by the FBI UCR, shows that arrests for drug abuse violations by women have increased 24.7%, versus a 6.1% increase by men for that same period.
So nationally men account for about 3 of every 4 drug arrests, but women are increasingly closing the gap.
Texas UCR data closely mirrors the national data and reported men to account for 77% of arrests in Texas for drug abuse violations.
Generally, I would be cautious to extrapolate the above to mean that more men use drugs more frequently than women based on the fact that more men are arrested for drug abuse violations than women (an important difference). However, the available data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health report (published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), shows that men are more likely than women to use every type of illicit drug.
So, per the Uniform Crime Reporting data compiled by the FBI, as well as per the Uniform Crime Reporting data compiled by Texas Department of Public Safety, about three of every four drug arrests are men (75%). Additionally, according to the data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, men are more likely than women to use every type of illicit drug.