Drug Control:

Observations on Elements of the Federal Drug Control Strategy

GGD-97-42: Published: Mar 14, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 14, 1997.

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Norman J. Rabkin
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the federal drug control strategy, focusing on: (1) findings of current research on promising drug approaches in drug abuse prevention targeted at school-age youth; (2) promising drug treatment strategies for cocaine addiction; (3) GAO's recent work assessing the effectiveness of international efforts to reduce illegal drug availability, including interdiction; (4) whether the U.S. Coast Guard's performance measures for its antidrug activities conform to the principles of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA); and (5) summaries of several of GAO's recent products on federal drug-prevention and treatment-related efforts.

GAO noted that: (1) recent research points to two types of promising drug prevention approaches for school-age youth; (2) the first approach emphasizes drug resistance skills, generic problem-solving, decisionmaking training, and modification of attitudes and norms that encourage drug use; (3) three approaches have been found to be potentially promising in the treatment of cocaine use; (4) these approaches include avoidance or better management of drug-triggering situations, exposure to community support programs, drug sanctions, and necessary employment counseling, and use of a coordinated behavioral, emotional, and cognitive treatment approach; (5) despite some successes, United States and host countries' efforts have not materially reduced the availability of drugs in the United States for several reasons; (6) international drug trafficking organizations have become sophisticated, multibillion dollar industries that quickly adapt to new U.S. drug control efforts; (7) the United States faces other significant and long-standing obstacles, such as inconsistent funding for U.S. international drug control efforts, competing foreign policy objectives, organizational and operational limitations, and a lack of ways to tell whether or how well counternarcotics efforts are contributing to the goals and objectives of the national drug control strategy, which results in an inablity to prioritize the use of limited resources; (8) in drug-producing and transit countries, counternarcotics efforts are constrained by competing economic and political policies, inadequate laws, limited resources and institutional capabilities, and internal problems such as terrorism, corruption, and civil unrest; (9) measuring the effectiveness of U.S. antidrug activities has been a continuing problem in assessing the results of the national drug control strategy; (10) in reauthorizing the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in 1993, Congress specified that ONDCP's performance measurement system should assess changes in drug use, drug availability, the consequences of drug use, and the adequacy of drug treatment systems; (11) to implement the statutory requirements, which are consistent with recommendations in GAO's 1993 report, ONDCP is developing national-level measures of drug control performance; (12) similarly, the Coast Guard is developing performance measures to assess the results of its antidrug activities; and (13) it appears from GAO's review of the Coast Guard's strategic and performance plans that it has taken steps toward conforming with certain GPRA principles.

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