Confronting the Drug Problem:

Debate Persists on Enforcement and Alternative Approaches

GGD-93-82: Published: Jul 1, 1993. Publicly Released: Aug 12, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed alternative approaches to address the drug problem.

GAO found that: (1) the federal government has increased its annual drug control budget from $2.8 billion in 1986 to $12 billion in 1992; (2) 70 percent of the drug control budget has supported drug enforcement efforts and 30 percent has supported drug use prevention and treatment; (3) supporters of drug enforcement believe that law enforcement activities in recent years have led to substantial drug seizures and to the arrest of many drug traffickers and users; (4) advocates of alternative drug enforcement strategies suggest that the federal enforcement strategy has not made a significant impact on the nation's continuing drug problem; and (5) alternative approaches to law enforcement include increasing spending on drug use prevention and drug treatment, increasing the use of penalties other than traditional imprisonment, expanding the use of conditional discharge programs, eliminating penalties for drug use, allowing physicians to prescribe certain illegal drugs in the course of treating patients' addictions, and authorizing a regulated drug market in which legitimate businesses could sell illegal drugs to adults under controlled conditions.

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