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Presents a concise, accessible, objective view of where the United States has been, now stands, and is going in the future in its long “war on drugs.” The authors assess the success of drug policies to date and review possible reasons why they have not been more successful. They consider the drug war’s “collateral damage” and attempt to understand why alternative policies have not been tried. They also lay out some possible futures for drug problems and policy in the United States. The authors recommend that a mix of three drug control strategies-enforcement, treatment, and prevention-be timed to a drug’s “epidemic cycle.” They further recommend that substance abuse be recognized as a long-term problem and managed for the long term and that cross-state variations in drug policy be viewed by the federal government as a plus rather than a minus. In conclusion, they press for a more dispassionate debate.

The research described in this report was supported by core RAND Drug Policy Research Center (DPRC) funds provided by The Ford Foundation. The DPRC is co-administered by two research units of the RAND Corporation, RAND Health, and RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE).

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Occasional paper series. RAND occasional papers may include an informed perspective on a timely policy issue, a discussion of new research methodologies, essays, a paper presented at a conference, or a summary of work in progress. All RAND occasional papers undergo rigorous peer review to help ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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