Drug Policies and Problems

The Promise and Pitfalls of Cross-National Comparison

by Robert J. MacCoun, Aaron Saiger, James P. Kahan, Peter Reuter

This is a brief essay about what cross-national comparisons can tell us about the relationship between drug policies and drug-related problems, and about some of the difficulties involved in making such comparisons. This essay reflects the authors' thinking and experience roughly halfway through a three-year cross-national study comparing drug policies and problem indicators across a number of Western industrialized nations. For reasons discussed, it would be premature to present preliminary statistical results in this essay; instead, the authors hope to stimulate curiosity about the experiences of other countries, and sensitivity as to the hazards of causal cross-national inference.

Originally published in: Psychoactive Drugs & Harm Reduction: From Faith to Science, London, 1993, pp. 103-117.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.