The committee recognizes that thus far systems research has had to rely on fragile empirical foundations. Scrutiny of current systems models reveals particularly strong needs for empirical research on three questions:
Geographic substitution: To what extent can producers and traffickers thwart enforcement in one geographic area by moving production or smuggling routes elsewhere?
Deterrence: How can the deterrent effects of supply-reduction activities be measured? How large are they?
Adaptation: What is the time lag between successful enforcement operations and adaptive responses on the part of producers and traffickers?
While answers to these questions will not come easily, it is the committee’s judgment that systems research has potential to inform supply-reduction policy and should therefore be fortified with research support. The committee recommends that the Office of National Drug Control Policy should encourage research agencies to develop a sustained program of information gathering and empirical research aiming to discover how drug production, transport, and distribution respond to interdiction and domestic enforcement activities. The committee strongly recommends that empirical research address the three critical issues of geographic substitution, deterrence, and adaptation.
Not all of enforcement policy is directed toward reduction of the supply of illegal drugs. An important component of such policy, especially recently, has been to attempt to reduce the demand for drugs by deterring use and by incapacitating users. Using sanctions to reduce demand can also facilitate treatment of arrested users. A rational drug control policy must take appropriate account of the benefits and costs of enforcing sanctions against drug users. Here too, research is sorely lacking. The committee recommends that the National Institute of Justice and the National Institute on Drug Abuse collaboratively undertake research on the declarative and deterrent effects, costs, and cost-effectiveness of sanctions against the use of illegal drugs. Particular attention should be paid to the relation between severity of prescribed sanctions and conditions of enforcement and the rates of initiation and termination of illegal drug use among different segments of the population.
The committee recognizes that improvement of data on drug consumption and prices, strengthening the empirical foundation for systems research, and assessment of enforcement policy aimed at drug users pose a set of challenging tasks whose accomplishment will require new re-