• National Drug Control Strategy

    The National Drug Control Strategy represents the US Government’s efforts towards reducing the harmful effects of illegal drug usage on society at large. The strategy does not believe in an enforcement system representing a kind of war on drugs; neither does it tilt towards legalization of drug usage. It believes that drug abuse is a disease which impairs the brain and can be prevented as well as treated. It therefore propagates a middle path. Effective implementation of the National Drug Control Strategy is dependent on the availability of vital information pertaining to illegal drugs. Updated information on drug abuse and its consequences is of paramount importance in this regard. In addition, monitoring of parameters helps in gauging how well the program is functioning. Strategic changes and modifications can then be introduced for better results. It is understood that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will require certain specific information for formulation, implementation and performance assessment of the strategy. These include the following broad categories:

    1. Assessment of current illegal drug usage
      • Drug prevalence and frequency of usage
      • Drug usage at workplace and consequent loss of productivity
      • Drug usage by arrestees, parolees and probationers
    2. Assessment of illegal drug activity
      • Quantities of illegal drugs available for consumption in the country
      • Quantities of illegal drugs entering the country
      • Number of drug manufacturing facilities seized and total area of drug plantation destroyed
      • Quantity of illegal drugs seized in the country
      • Changes in the quality and price of illegal drugs
    3. Assessment of consequences of illegal drug usage
      • Measurement of burden placed on emergency services
      • Health care costs incurred as a result of illegal drug usage
      • Extent of criminal activities as a result of illegal drug consumption
    4. Assessment of drug treatment
      • Number of users that meet criteria for treatment
      • Utilization of public as well as private treatment facilities

    In addition to the aforementioned categories, information must also be available for analyzing current trends in comparison to previously compiled data. Such an analysis would certainly improve the assessment of the strategy under implementation. It will also help in standardizing the process of assessing drug treatment effectiveness.

    Drug related Data systems

    As we have seen, specific information is required for strategy formulation and implementation. The following section lists down the important data sources that are used to compile information for this purpose.

    1. National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) – Using information on demographics, health and drug usage, it measures alcohol and drug abuse prevalence, among various age groups. The survey started off with a limited scope restricted to household members, but in 1991, it was expanded and now includes homeless people living in shelters and other temporary arrangements, students living in dormitories and civilians on military bases. Over the years, it has been modified in a manner that it now provides single year information on common phenomena, and multi-year data on less common behaviors.
      • In 2009, the estimated number of illegal drug users, aged 12 or older, for past month usage, was 21 million[1]. This was a staggering 8.7% of the population within this segment.
      • For the same period, figures for past month usage among adolescents (aged between 12 to 17 years), was 2.47 million, which was 10% of the adolescent population.
      • On the basis of current employment status, in the year 2009, 8% of the full time employed population was  estimated to be using illegal drugs. This percentage shot up to 17% for the unemployed population.
    2. Drug Abuse Warning Network or DAWN collates information on emergency episodes and medical examination cases in relation to drug usage. It works along with local, state and federal policymakers to analyze substance abuse patterns and trends along with the associated health hazards. In 2003, the data was converted into digital format, and since then estimates are available for national as well as metropolitan areas.
      • In 2002, the total drug episodes were 670,307, a jump of over 50% since 1988; while the total drug mentions were 1,209,938, which were double compared to 1988 figures.
      • The total number of emergency department visits involving illegal drug usage was around 1 million in 2004, and more or less remained the same by 2009. In contrast, the number of emergency department visits for non-medical usage of pharmaceuticals was 0.5 million in 2004, and it had more than doubled by 2009, the estimated number being 1.01 million.
    3. Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) – It is a national census compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and covering thousands of law enforcement agencies across United States. Data includes arrests for manufacture, possession and sale of illegal drugs. The distribution of data is also done on the basis of geographical location and demographics.
      • The number of arrests for drug violations was 1.36 million in 1989. This figure rose to 1.66 million in the year 2009, and represented 12.2% of the total number of arrests.
    4. National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Service (N-SSATS) collects information on the number, type, ownership structure, scope of services, treatment capacity, utilization rate etc. of treatment facilities for alcohol and drug abuse.
      • The number for single day census of clients enrolled in treatment facilities was 1.18 million in the year 2009. Out of these, 0.6 million were in non-profit private facilities, while 0.3 million were in for-profit private facilities. The numbers for Local/State/Federal Government sponsored facilities were pretty low in comparison.
    5. National Seizure Systems (NSS) gathers data on clandestine laboratories seized by US law enforcement agencies. The records are maintained and controlled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The usage of the data however, is limited to law enforcement agencies for enforcement of laws. Apart from important investigative leads, information is available on the type, number and location of meth labs that have been seized.
      • In 2010, a total of 10,374 meth labs and dump sites were seized across the United States. This included around 6,225 small labs and 9 super labs, that produce more than 10 pounds annually

    International Statistics

    The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report provides information on illegal drug manufacturing & transit nations, in an attempt to prevent drug manufacturing, trafficking and other associated money laundering businesses. Along with this, the US Government itself maintains data on each country that is estimated to be producing significant amounts of illegal drugs. A few important findings have been listed below:

    • According to the World Drug Report 2012, prepared by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, around 230 million people, representing 5% of the global population have used illegal drugs in 2010. Of these, problem users suffering from addiction, number around 27 million [2]. More than 0.2 million people die each year as a result of cocaine, heroin and other illicit drugs.
    • There is an annual flow of approximately 430 to 450 tons of heroin in the global market; this includes 340 tons that is consumed, the remaining being seized [3]. More than 380 tons of this total amount, is exclusively produced in Afghanistan, almost all of which gets trafficked out, into the heroin market.
    • In the year 2007-08, 17 million people across the world consumed 470 tons of cocaine, more than 40% of which was consumed in North America. Columbia remains the biggest source of cocaine for North America; while in Europe, some amounts are available from Peru and Bolivia as well.

    The ONDCP has established two distinct departments addressing and analyzing information, one working on the demand side and the other on the supply side of the drug market. These two groups help in improving current information systems as well as in developing new data systems in the area of drug control. The goal is to ensure that appropriate data is available for controlling production, trafficking and consumption of illegal drugs across the United States.

    References:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/policy-and-research/2011_data_supplement.pdf

    http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/WDR2012/WDR_2012_web_small.pdf

    http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/drug-trafficking/index.html

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