FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Jennifer de Vallance / Bob Weiner 202-395-6618
March 29, 2001
ONDCP COMMENDS NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL REPORT CALLING FOR INCREASED
DRUG CONTROL RESEARCH
(Washington, D.C.)A report released today by the National Research Council
(NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences, commissioned and funded by the Office
of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), calls for increased research and data
collection for a broad spectrum of drug control policies. ONDCP contracted
with the NRC in 1998 to conduct a 30-month study to assess drug-related data
and research and make recommendations for refining data collection methods.
ONDPC Acting Director Edward H. Jurith stated, "We asked NRC to conduct this
study because drug policy must be informed by timely, comprehensive, and accurate
data. This report will assist in the prioritization of research needs with
regard to use trends, the operation of drug markets, effective deterrents,
and a range of issues related to drug policy. The NRC study confirms the need
for improved research and data for policies regarding drug prevention, treatment,
law enforcement, and international programs. We will review the report carefully
and discuss its conclusions and recommendations with our federal, state, and
local partners. We will pay close attention to the report's findings, particularly
the need for improved data and research in the area of law enforcement, because
of the critical policy implications and substantial resources involved."
Three years ago, ONDCP created a Performance Measures of Effectiveness (PME)
system for annual reporting of progress in implementing the National Drug
Control Strategy. "This PME system drives improvements in research and
evolves as our knowledge expands. Clearly, drug control, with all the human
elements of addiction and trafficking, is not a perfect science, but we are
striving to make drug-policy decisions based on the most empirical foundation
available. However, the reality is that many of our performance measures require
better supporting data, underscoring the need for improvements in research
capacity," Jurith said.
"As recommended in the NRC study, ONDCP has already supported a robust program
of drug control research in order to ensure better informed policy," Jurith
continued. ONDCP coordinates federal drug control research efforts through
the interagency Drug Control Research, Data, and Evaluation Committee (DCRDEC).
Through this interagency process, ONDCP works with federal agencies to improve
and expand data systems' capabilities to inform policy and gauge progress.
We will convene the DCRDEC next month (April) to review and act on the NRC's
Jurith concluded, "While the report is correct in asserting that much more
needs to be done to assure informed policies, it is important to note that
significant progress has been made in drug research in recent years. For example:
the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse now provides state-level estimates
of drug use; the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program includes more cities;
and the National Treatment Outcome Monitoring System will provide national
estimates of treatment admissions and outcomes. Armed with accurate information,
governments and communities can make wiser policy choices."
STEPS ONDCP IS TAKING TO ADDRESS MAIN
RECOMMENDATIONS OF NRC REPORT
The following are the 11 main recommendations contained in the NRC report
to improve drug-related data and research to inform U.S. drug policy and the
steps that ONDCP and its Federal partners are taking, or have taken, to address
The committee recommends that work be started to develop better methods
for acquiring consumption data.
The major population surveys periodically undergo review to improve
the methodology and questionnaire design. For example, in 1999 the sample
for the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) was expanded
from 18,000 persons to nearly 70,000, thereby permitting state-level
estimates of drug use prevalence and drug dependence. This recommendation
focuses on a critical issue for population surveys of drug use. ONDCP
regularly works with the Office of Management and Budget and the drug
control Departments and agencies to improve and expand our knowledge
base on drug consumption.
The committee recommends that work be started to develop methods for
improving existing drug price data and acquiring more reliable data.
During the period the NRC was conducting its study, ONDCP funded a study
to review the DEA's System to Retrieve Information on Drug Evidence (STRIDE) the
source of data on the price and purity of illicit drugs to determine
whether improvements in how the data are collected could be made. These
improvements would make the data more representative of U.S. drug markets.
The committee recommends that the Office of National Drug Control Policy
should encourage research agencies to develop a sustained program of information
gathering and empirical research aiming to discover how drug production,
transport, and distribution respond to interdiction and domestic enforcement
activities. The committee strongly recommends that empirical research address
the three critical issues of geographic substitution, deterrence, and adaptation.
Currently, ONDCP is conducting a joint study with the U.S. Coast Guard
and the U.S. Customs Service to develop a strategic and operational assessment
of deterrence. The study is addressing some of the questions posed by
the NRC, including what aspects of U.S. interdiction policy deters individuals
from smuggling. Research for this study has included detailed interviews
with incarcerated high-level drug smugglers.
The committee recommends that the National Institute of Justice and
the National Institute on Drug Abuse collaboratively undertake research
on the declarative and deterrent effects, costs, and cost-effectiveness
of sanctions against the use of illegal drugs. Particular attention should
be paid to the relation between severity of prescribed sanctions and conditions
of enforcement and the rates of initiation and termination of illegal drug
use among different segments of the population.
The ONDCP-led Data Subcommittee includes representatives from both the
National Institute on Justice (NIJ) and the National Institute on Drug
Abuse (NIDA). This recommendation will be discussed at the next meeting
of the Subcommittee. However, it should be noted that a number of such
research efforts have been funded by the Departments of Justice and Health
and Human Services, the U.S. Customs Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The committee recommends that the National Institute of Justice, the
Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the National Science Foundation be assigned
joint responsibility for data collection and research on illegal drug markets,
and the effects of drug control interventions.
ONDCP and NIJ recently published a report on cocaine markets in 6 U.S.
cities using data from the Drug Use Forecasting program (now called the
Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program). As noted by the NRC, much more
of this type of research needs to be done.
The committee recommends that methods be developed to supplement the
data collected in the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse and Monitoring
the Future in order to obtain adequate coverage of subpopulations with
high rates of drug use.
ONDCP is currently conducting a study of hardcore drug users one
of the most important segments of the population not traditionally sampled
by the major drug use surveys. The purpose of the study is to provide
additional information on users presenting for treatment to capture information
on a population not currently covered by the national data sets.
The committee recommends a systemic and rigorous research program (1)
to understand and monitor inaccurate response and (2) to develop methods
to reduce it to the extent possible.
Non-response or inaccurate response in survey samples is a serious and
recurring problem in population surveys, particularly in surveys of illegal
behavior, such as drug use. However, there are steps that can be taken
to mitigate or minimize them. For example, the NHSDA is exploring different
incentive options to increase response rates. Additionally this major
survey is conducting a study to confirm self reports of drug use with
hair sample analysis. ONDCP has conducted its own incentive study to
improve response rates for a major polling effort. OMB is also involved
in ongoing efforts to better understand and address non-response or inaccurate
responses. The Government Accounting Office is also involved in work
in this area.
The committee recommends that the Office of National Drug Control Policy
and the granting agency (currently National Institute on Drug Abuse) establish
an oversight committee of statisticians and other experts who are able
to balance the need for access with goal of confidentiality; this committee
should establish guidelines for opening up the Monitoring The Future database
and continue to operate to ensure that access is quickly and easily provided.
The Monitoring the Future study, conducted for the past 26 years by
the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, is a grant
funded by NIDA. Specific procedures are currently in place to provide
access to the data while maintaining confidentiality. However, ONDCP
will refer this recommendation to NIDA for consideration.
The committee recommends a major increase in current efforts to evaluate
drug prevention strategies. Further research is needed to understand (1)
the effects of the entire spectrum of plausible approaches to prevention,
rather than those that are mostly easily evaluated; (2) the effects of
drug prevention programs implemented under normal conditions, outside the
tightly controlled boundaries of experimental tests that rely on optimal
conditions; (3) the effects of different combinations of prevention programs
*#151; with particular attention to how they complement or detract from
one another; and (4) the extent to which delays in tobacco, alcohol, and
marijuana use yield reductions in later involvement with cocaine and other
illegal drugs, and the long-term effects of prevention programming more
In recent years, the Federal Government has made great strides in requiring
the evaluation of drug prevention programs. For example, with respect
to the two prevention programs currently funded by ONDCP the National
Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign and the Drug-Free Community Coalition
program extensive and rigorous evaluations are being conducted.
Both of these evaluations are of programs being implemented under normal
conditions. In addition, NIDA has set as a priority an increase for prevention
research funding. In addition, it should be noted that all major federal
prevention agencies have guidelines on research-based prevention and
are implementing the principles through program dissemination and technical
assistance. This issue will be referred to the Interagency Working Group
for further study.
The committee recommends that treatment researchers take greater advantage
of possible opportunities for randomization to no-treatment control groups.
For example, we strongly encourage studies of incarcerated and post-incarcerated
prisoners as outlined in the report. The committee urges federal and state
agencies and private institutions to minimize organizational obstacles
to such studies while maintaining ethical and legal bounds.
ONDCP agrees with the NRC that randomized no-treatment control groups
would be preferred for treatment effectiveness studies. However, as noted
by the NRC, there are very significant ethical and legal barriers to
conducting such studies (i.e., denying treatment to people who are in
need and could benefit). ONDCP does not concur with the NRC that these
barriers do not exist with respect to criminal justice populations. For
example, Federal law requires that all Federal prisoners in need of treatment
must receive it.
The committee recommends that the Office of National Drug Control Policy
place organizational improvements for data collection and research high
on its agenda in the immediate future. If it does not move quickly to implement
the changes required to improve statistical data the President and Congress
should find other ways to ensure that the substantive and organizational
changes are swiftly and effectively achieved.
While ONDCP recognizes that there may be advantages to consolidating
drug-related statistical data collection and analysis within two independent
agencies, there also are many obstacles and disadvantages to such a plan,
not the least of which would be the expense. For example, many of the
data sets that inform drug policy were developed to support specific
agency programs. In the case of law enforcement data, many of these data
sets are used operationally to investigate and prosecute criminal cases.
Removing these data sets to a separate and independent agency could hamper
In addition to the areas covered by these recommendations, ONDCP has been
conducting a number of studies to fill gaps in our ability to assess certain
aspects of drug policy. Some of these studies, which are ongoing and evolving
as new information becomes available, include:
What America's Users Spend on Illicit Drugs. This report has been
produced periodically since 1992 and reports on the retail value of
illicit drugs consumed in the United States. This report also provides
an estimate of the number of hardcore users of heroin and cocaine.
Drug Flow Models. An outgrowth of the report on the retail value
of illicit drugs is this study to estimate the amount of drugs (cocaine,
heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine) flowing from source countries,
through the transit zone, across the border, and onto the streets of
Price and Purity of Illegal Drugs. This study uses data from
DEA's STRIDE data base, adjusted for sampling limitations,
to estimate quarterly and annual price and purity trends for
cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana (price only).
Pulse Check. This biannual report provides information on
drug markets, drug use patterns, and emerging trends collected
from discussions with law enforcement officials, treatment
providers, and ethnographers and epidemiologists.
Random Access Monitoring of Narcotics Addicts (the Hardcore
User Study). This study is taking methodology developed by
ONDCP's Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center to collect
real-time treatment admissions data (the Drug Evaluation Network
System) via laptop computers and modem to a central collection
point, and combining it with in-depth interviews of a sample
of treatment clients. These interviews will provide a nationally
representative estimate of the size and characteristics of
the hardcore user population.
Cost to Society Study. This project provides updated and projected
estimates of the economic costs of drug abuse to society, building
upon the same general approach that has been employed in prior efforts,
last published as The Economic Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in the
United States, 1992. Included in the project is an annual updating
and projection of estimates of the economic costs of drug abuse and
dependence, building upon the proven approach that has been employed
in prior efforts. Developing updated estimates is useful because there
are steady trends in our society and the economy, which, while relatively
gradual over a year or two, may have a material impact over several
years. Thus, economic values which are several years (or more) different
in vintage will benefit from adjustment for major known factors between
Geo-mapping project. ONDCP, with its Congressional mandate "to set
priorities and objectives for national drug control," identified the
critical need for an improved method to access and collect national
data, analyze that data, and integrate it into a national risk assessment
system. ONDCP is developing a system to rank U.S. counties on the basis
of several quantitative indicators related to drug trafficking and
criminal justice indicators, drug use data, and drug related consequences,
thereby providing an assessment and ordering of overall risk. The envisioned
system would be useful to ONDCP as a tool that can assist in selecting
geographic areas targeted for drug supply reduction or demand reduction
efforts. The primary objective of this project is to identify and locate
data, including new or non-standard sources, that are related to and/or
can predict drug risks for populations in specific geographic areas
of the United States.