Limitation and reliability of data

Nevertheless, although we have restricted our scope, the results that emerge confirm the difficulties caused by limited data availability and data collection in a field that is relatively undeveloped in the EU. In fact, other than the ‘ad hoc’ research undertaken during the preparation of this report (108), only a few studies have been conducted with the aim of quantifying public resources allocated to drug issues in the EU (109). As matter of record, the majority of countries in the EU cannot say precisely how much they spend on combating drugs and drug addiction.

Most of the participants in this research, therefore, could not provide comprehensive data. In fact, some figures are missing, and often calculations have been based on estimation and extrapolation methodologies (110).

As reported by a large number of focal points, and confirmed by literature in the field, at least five factors can limit such research: (1) the lack of data for some areas and some countries; (2) the difficulty in isolating data on illicit drugs from data covering both illicit drugs and alcohol ; (3) the variety of actors and organisations at central, regional and local level accountable for spending; (4) the difficulty of precisely dividing public expenditure among theoretical categories, such as demand and supply reduction; and (5) the complexity of breaking down expenditure, within these two categories, by area of intervention (treatment, primary prevention, rehabilitation, cooperation, coordination, etc.).

It is, however, interesting to note that, although studies of this kind are obviously complicated by methodological problems, decision-makers are showing growing interest in public spending reviews (111) both as a basis upon which to make decisions and as a means of measuring performance.


(108) The EMCDDA is particularly grateful to the Greek, Austrian and Portuguese focal points for undertaking specific research and investigations in this field, increasing the value of this annual report. Acknowledgement should also be given to Professor Pierre Kopp for peer review of the research.

(109)  Belgium (2003), Luxembourg (2002), the United Kingdom (2002); more references are available on the EMCDDA web site.

(110)  Our desire to include as many countries as possible in order to provide a complete European picture conflicts with the scarcity of data in some of the countries considered. Consequently, while a broad scope has been maintained, the capacity for analysis and comparison has been very much diminished by the uncertainty of the final figures.

(111)  Belgium (2003), Luxembourg (2002), the United Kingdom (2002); more references are available on the EMCDDA web site.