Here's what I mean. over the past dozen years or so, there has been an ever so slight gain in the percentage of money spent on treatment and prevention - traditionally considered "demand reduction" strategies, compared to interdiction, law enforcement, seizure, foreign programs and other "supply reduction" activities. The change has been from around 30% of total budget to around 33% presently, so less than .3% per year. Of the new money for this year however, fully 44% will be directed towards treatment and prevention programs. A small victory (but a meaningful one) for those who believe that the only successful strategy is to treat the users and prevent more from developing. On the other hand, before too much congratulations go 'round, it would be wise to remember that government spending to solve the drug problem is still a mere fraction of what experts believe our national substance abuse problems cost us each year.
The Federal Budget for 1999 can be found at the Office of National Drug Control Policy web site. You might also want to review the 5 goals and 32 objectives of the plan, also at that site.
Proponents of demand reduction are hopeful that lawmakers and the executive branch finally "get it". A consistent argument has been that if you remove the customers, the sellers will go away as well. The current balance change might suggest that some are beginning to see the wisdom of a focus on demand reduction. Government experts point to measures of treatment effectiveness as the new strategies are unveiled. Proponents often refer to studies which have shown drug treatment to be many times over more effective than foreign crop eradication, border interdiction or domestic law enforcement.
Not everyone is happy with the government's response to drug abuse in America. One group advocating wholesale change in U.S. drug policy has an online drug war cost clock where you can see how much is being spent at the Federal and state levels on the "war on drugs". The Drug Policy Foundation was quick to respond the the government's announcement with their rebuttal which focused on the topic of accountability. The DPF fosters a public-health rather than law enforcement model of drug policy, and decries the continued funding of programs reflecting "policies that have not worked in the past and won't work in the future," according to staffers. They single out programs like DARE, which has long been a favorite of funders and has resulted in widespread exposure to kids, but which, detractors say, has not proven to be effective at all.
What's your opinion? Drop me a note and let me know what you think about all this.
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