The White House has rejected the main findings of a study on how to curb the use of cocaine. Why? Because the study showed that drug treatment is seven times more cost effective than the most successful law-enforcement efforts.How's that again?
Yes, that's right. The federal government is so sensitive to the pressures of the military and police agencies that lap up money--supposedly to rein in production, trafficking and dealing in cocaine--that it has rejected the conclusions of a study it helped fund.
The study was prepared by researchers C. Peter Rydell and Susan S. Everingham for RAND, a Santa Monica-based private, non-profit institution, and was released June 13. It was funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the U.S. Army, the Ford Foundation and RAND. The researchers based some of their analysis on data collected in the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse.
The study reports that the various levels of government spend a total of $13 billion a year on cocaine control. Only 13 percent of that goes to treatment (6 percent) and prevention (7 percent). The rest goes to domestic law enforcement (69 percent), interdiction (12 percent) and source country control (6 percent)--that is, the police and the military.
However, despite the billions spent on enforcement, the street price of pure cocaine has dropped from $750 a gram in 1977 to a little over $100 in 1992, indicating a plentiful supply.
The number of users has declined from its peak of around 12 million in 1985 to 7 million in 1991. But a shift toward heavier consumption of the drug by the remaining users has kept the amount of cocaine sold in the U.S. the same.
It is the report's conclusions that seem to have miffed the White House. The researchers project that if the amount of money spent on treatment were raised from the current $1 billion to $4 billion a year by taking $3 billion from supply control, all heavy cocaine users could be treated. Today, only 30 percent are. This would result in "a one-third reduction in annual cocaine consumption, a significant drop in the number of users and, as a result, a decrease in the cocaine-related costs of crime and lost productivity estimated at $10 billion."
The study also shows that to reduce cocaine consumption by just 1 percent, it would cost $783 million if spent on "source country control"--such as setting up helicopter bases in the Andes-- but a mere $34 million if spent on drug treatment here.
Shouldn't the Clinton administration be thrilled at all this? Without spending one extra penny, they could score a significant victory in the war on drugs.
Yet that seems to be the problem.
Just as in a general shooting war, there are a lot of vested interests
in this battle. And the people who run neighborhood treatment centers don't
have the same clout in capitalist politics as do Air Force generals, the
LAPD, the prime-time producers who glorify them, or the giant banks that
launder billions in drug money.
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