Drugs and Drug Policy in America: What's Next for Policymakers? | Web version

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March 13, 2014

Safety and Justice

Drugs and Drug Policy in America: What's Next for Policymakers?

drugs and paraphenalia

Drug policy is on the agenda across the nation as the federal and state governments confront questions about marijuana legalization, prison reform, prescription drug misuse, and heroin overdoses.

To help leaders better understand the possible consequences of decisions about these issues, the RAND Corporation has research and experts available to provide information as you prepare legislation related to drug policy. Topics include substance use and trends, marijuana policy, drug treatment programs, prevention strategies, economics of drugs markets, implications for the criminal justice system, and more.

How Big Is the U.S. Market for Illegal Drugs?

The White House asked RAND to estimate the number of users, expenditures, and consumption for four illicit drugs: cocaine (including crack), heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine (meth). From 2000 to 2010 users in the United States spent on the order of $100 billion annually on these drugs. While this total figure was stable over the decade, there were important compositional shifts. In 2000, much more money was spent on cocaine than marijuana; in 2010 the opposite was true. Read the full report »

Hard Drugs Demand Solid Understanding

Due to budget concerns, the federal government just shut down a critical data source that helps measure heroin, crack, and methamphetamine abuse: The Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (ADAM). Without this program it will be difficult, if not impossible, to estimate and track hard drug abuse and spending in the United States. Even at its peak, ADAM cost only about $10 million per year, which is less than one one-hundredth of one-percent of the social cost imposed by abuse of the drugs it tracked. Good policy needs a foundation in good data. Read the commentary »

Improving Community-Based Drug Prevention

Youth substance use can exact a high toll on local communities. These activities are often the target of community-based prevention efforts. Getting To Outcomes (GTO) is a toolkit organized around a 10-step process to help communities plan, implement, and evaluate the impact of their programs that attempt to prevent negative behaviors. GTO was developed with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Read more about the project »

Treating Individuals with Co-Occurring Depression and Substance Abuse Disorders

Although depression frequently co-occurs with substance abuse, few individuals entering substance abuse treatment also have access to effective depression treatment. Providing group cognitive behavioral therapy for depression to clients with persistent depressive symptoms receiving residential substance abuse treatment was found to be associated with improved (reduced) depression and substance use outcomes. These results provide support for a new model of integrated care. Read the article »

Experts Available

Beau Kilmer, Co-director, RAND Drug Policy Research Center; Senior Policy Researcher

Rosalie Pacula, Co-director, RAND Drug Policy Research Center; Senior Economist

View a list of RAND work on marijuana »
View a list of RAND work on drug policy research »

Please don't hesitate to contact me at (703) 413-1100, ext. 5423 or Laura_Patton@rand.org if you want additional information from RAND, would like to speak to a researcher, or have any questions.


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