Public Health Benefits of Drug Control Spending

Econometric and Sociopolitical Research

"The long-run elasticities provide a basis for estimating potential benefits from changing the current policy mix away from enforcement and interdiction and towards education and treatment. Applying the estimated coefficients, a 10 percent reduction in expenditures on enforcement (about 1 billion dollars by the late 1990s) would be associated with a long-run reduction of over 20% in both the number of deaths and the age-adjusted death rate. This would imply that close to 3,000 deaths a year might be avoided with a shift away from enforcement approaches to drug control. Adding the billion dollars to education and treatment would represent an 18% increase in 1998. The estimated elasticity of 1.59 implies a reduction of close to 5,000 drug-induced deaths per year as a result. Thus, the underlying estimates suggest that very substantial improvements in public health may be achieved by emphasizing education and treatment over enforcement and interdiction."


Shepard, Edward & Paul R. Blackley, "US Drug Control Policies: Federal Spending on Law Enforcement Versus Treatment in Public Health Outcomes," Journal of Drug Issues, Vol. 34, No. 4, Fall 2004, pp. 781-782.