Drug Abuse Research

Federal Funding and Future Needs Gao ID: PEMD-92-5 January 14, 1992

Federal support from the two principal agencies for drug abuse research--the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice--increased more than 200 percent between 1980 and 1990 (more than 400 percent if funding related to AIDS is included). In contrast, outlays for national defense research and development rose by 83 percent while nondefense research and development fell by 5 percent during that same period. Of the three categories of drug abuse research funding GAO studied--causality, prevention, and treatment--HHS' National Institute on Drug Abuse spent the most on treatment, followed by prevention and causality. Funding for studies on the causes of drug abuse has remained tiny, never exceeding .01 percent of the nation's drug control budget. The Department of Justice has spent as much on prevention studies as on causality and treatment studies combined. Expert researchers agree on the importance of more research on the psychological and social/environmental factors leading to drug abuse.

GAO found that: (1) from 1973 through 1982, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded drug abuse research at a level 38 percent below the 1973 level in constant 1982 dollars, but funding consistently grew from 1983 through 1990; (2) between 1980 and 1990, budget obligations for extramural research increased by an average of 29 percent across the federal government's major departments and agencies; (3) during 1989 and 1990, causality, prevention, and treatment research accounted for 50 percent of NIDA extramural grant support; (4) NIDA spent the most on treatment, followed by prevention and causality research; (5) the Office of Justice Programs is the second largest sponsor of pertinent drug abuse research and spent the majority of its funding on studies of drugs and crime and the evaluation of enforcement and judicial process; (6) researchers identified the importance of studying the psychological and social/environmental factors which may contribute to the causes of drug abuse, intervention effectiveness, and drug policy impact studies as high research priorities; (7) responses from experts on treatment issues were the most general and broad, and were clustered in three areas, including stages in the treatment process, intervention effectiveness, and treatment approaches; and (8) between 1980 and 1990, drug research increased by over 200 percent, or 400 percent if funding related to acquired immune deficiency syndrome was included, while national defense research and development (R&D) funding increased by 83 percent and nondefense R&D increased by 5 percent.


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