Information about drug abuse in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area is needed (1) to raise public awareness, (2) to help local policymakers decide what to do, and (3) to track overall progress. Existing public data systems suffice for the first purpose, but not for the second and third. This paper discusses data currently available from medical examiners and hospital emergency rooms, from routine urinalysis of arrestees, from school surveys, from drug treatment programs, and on arrests and prosecutions. Gaps in geographic coverage and in coverage of populations of special concern (youth, intravenous drug users, pregnant women) are assessed. Information about drug prices and availability and about prevention efforts is needed for policy decisions but is not yet collected systematically. The paper illustrates some of the uses, as well as problems, of a regional household survey on drug abuse.
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