Prevalence estimation has a potentially important role in drug policy decision making. To date, however, it has played only a modest role in decisions at the national level, though it has come to be important in the rhetoric of national drug policy. This limited influence arises from the limited capacities and credibility of the estimates on the one hand and the highly moralistic nature of the policy process surrounding the illicit drug issue on the other. The available numbers are developed either systematically from data sources that have low credibility (self-report) or are developed less systematically from sources that simply are not well understood. Estimates of the number of problematic drug users are most likely to have a significant role in policy making in the near future.

Originally published in: Journal of Drug Issues, v. 23, no. 2, 1993, pp. 167-184.

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