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This report considers the current feasibility of constructing an estimate of the global cost of drug use. While national estimates exist for seven developed countries, most countries have yet to construct a comprehensive estimate. Furthermore, it is impossible to compare the existing national estimates because of differences in the construction, which may reflect varying political and social environments that influence the nature of use and its related harms.

This report lays out a conceptual framework for initiating the construction of country-specific estimates in a fashion that would facilitate cross-national comparisons. It demonstrates the difficulty in trying to implement this framework using existing data, as current data available in the various countries suffer from inconsistencies in definitions, coverage, and measurement. The pitfalls and assumptions necessary to construct a comparable estimate using existing data, therefore, are quite significant.

We conclude that it is not possible at this time to develop a meaningful comparative estimate of the cost of drug use across countries. We believe, however, that steps could be taken to improve the consistency of measurement in many of the indicators in future years through coordinated international efforts, not unlike that currently being undertaken by the EMCDDA for the European Community.

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This study has been produced by the Trimbos Institute and RAND with the financial support of the Commission of the European Communities. The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Europe.

This report is part of the RAND technical report series. RAND technical reports may include research findings on a specific topic that is limited in scope or intended for a narrow audience; present discussions of the methodology employed in research; provide literature reviews, survey instruments, modeling exercises, guidelines for practitioners and research professionals, and supporting documentation; or deliver preliminary findings. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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