effectiveness of drug control policies stern from the limitations of existing data on illegal drugs. Throughout this report, the committee has repeatedly concluded that essential policy-relevant data are missing or inadequate. In some areas, the data are nonexistent—for example, on total consumption or numbers of heavy users—or are nearly useless for policy purposes—for example, on price. In other areas, the existing data are not generalizable to other populations of interest—for example, the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program—or are only modestly helpful in informing policy (cross-sectional prevalence estimates).

The top priorities, in the committee’s judgment, are to rectify the two major deficiencies in existing data systems: the absence of adequate consumption data and reliable price data. These data are absolutely critical for evaluating the effectiveness of supply-reduction activities. Specifically:

  • Better measures are needed of the distribution of consumption, encompassing frequency, amount, and intensity of use (and escalation or de-escalation of use over time). Only if these measures are available will it be possible to estimate total amount consumed at the population level. The simple prevalence data now available may be sufficient for assessing the impact of policy interventions on initiation and termination of use, but they are not sufficient for assessing the responsiveness of users to enforcement, treatment, and other interventions, the relationship between intensity of use and the consequences of use, or the responsiveness of demand to changes in price.

  • Reliable data are needed on retail prices in order to assess the impact of supply-reduction activities on the operation of drug markets. Moreover, price data are essential to evaluate the sensitivity of the demand for drugs to the available supply.

Research Infrastructure

The federal investment in research on the causes of drug abuse and the effects of prevention and treatment amounted to approximately $668 million in 1999, representing about $1 for every $7.33 spent on prevention and treatment. In contrast, the investment in research on illegal drug markets and the effects of enforcement was approximately $113 million, representing about $1 for every $107 spent on enforcement. In other words, although the federal government spends more than twice as much on enforcement as it does on prevention and treatment—and the nation spends more than three times as much, taking into account state and local expenditures—it spends only one-fourteenth as much on research designed to assess the effects of enforcement as it does on treatment and prevention research (controlling for size of investment).

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement