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Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us
provide data on addiction in the absence of any treatment. In our judgment, researchers miss opportunities for randomized trials with no-treatment controls in settings in which such trials would be practical and ethical—for example, criminal justice settings, in which many drug-involved offenders otherwise go untreated. The committee recommends that treatment researchers take greater advantage of possible opportunities for randomization to no-treatment control groups. For example, we strongly encourage studies of incarcerated and postincarcerated prisoners as outlined in this report. The committee urges federal and state agencies and private institutions to minimize organizational obstacles to such studies, within ethical and legal bounds.
In our review of data and research on drug use and drug policy, the committee found important gaps. Some data are missing altogether, while other data need improvement in order to be truly useful for supporting policy design and evaluation.
Many of these problems emanate from a lack of funding support and from the fragmentation of drug data collection over a large number of federal agencies. Each of the major statistical collections reviewed herein is managed by a different agency, none of which has statistical reporting as its major focus. We reiterate our concern regarding the lack of data and research on drug enforcement policies and, in conclusion, we dwell especially on a need overall for strengthening the professional staffs and capabilities of organizations responsible for data collection and analysis, and for increasing the independence of their operations.
The numerous substantive recommendations in this report cannot be implemented without improvements in the practices of statistical agencies and a consolidation of the federal effort. In particular, two key steps are necessary for improving the quality of data on illegal drugs:
Efforts should be taken to strengthen the professional staffs and capabilities of the organizations responsible for data collection and analysis and to increase the independence of their operations.
Data collection should over the long run be consolidated into a small number of statistical agencies, perhaps two, which would take a leadership role in organizing and collecting statistical data at the federal level.
Upgrading collection efforts in existing agencies and consolidation of data collection are essential tasks for improving the scope and quality of data on illegal drugs. Unless these organizational goals are achieved, the