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Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us
searchers became [interested], they were often hindered by the law enforcement community….
At last, this has begun to change. With the significant increase in drug use during the 1960’s the government recognized the need for information which could come only from expanded research efforts. Prohibited drugs have been made available for legitimate research; confidentiality has been extended to research subjects; and now, public resources are being devoted to this important area….
In urging [increased] research, the Commission cautions against research that points in only one direction. In the past, government agencies have sometimes used drug research to support policy rather than shape it. Studies that produced the answers they wanted were promoted and publicized; projects which appeared to document the “wrong” results were quietly buried and not released. [New research] should specifically include studies that examine without bias alternate hypotheses and approaches.
It is no less important in the year 2001 to emphasize the need for scientific independence in research on illegal drugs than it was in 1973.
THE CHALLENGE AHEAD
Three decades ago, Congress decided to diversify the federal response to drug problems, investing in surveillance, biobehavioral and etiological research, and education and treatment. As a result, the nation has the data systems and research infrastructure needed to assess the effectiveness of preventive and therapeutic interventions. Although further improvements are needed in these areas, as explained in this report, the data and research capacity are in place. In stark contrast, neither the data systems nor the research infrastructure needed to assess the effectiveness of drug control enforcement policies now exists. It is time for the federal government to remedy this serious deficiency. It is unconscionable for this country to continue to carry out a public policy of this magnitude and cost without any way of knowing whether and to what extent it is having the desired effect.
Institute of Medicine 1996 Pathways of Addiction. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
1998 Bridging the Gap Between Practice and Research; Forging Partnerships with Community-Based Drug and Alcohol Treatment. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse 1973 Final Report. Drug Use in America: Problem in Perspective. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.