Final considerations

As far as analysis of drug-related expenditure is concerned, a distinction must be made between research on expenditure at national level and cross-country comparisons of this research.

Recent studies in some countries (113) have shown the possibilities of achieving satisfactory results even without applying an ‘internationally agreed methodology’. Of course, on such a basis the comparability among countries is certainly limited, but still at national level this research can increase knowledge of the responses to the drug phenomenon and can be a useful instrument for decision-makers, allowing them to assess the level of expenditure in their own countries over time (if repeated) and across sectors (if detailed enough). Moreover, when cost estimates are compared with other indicators, as seen earlier, it is possible to estimate how much is spent per drug addict or how much the drug demand-reduction policy costs compared with other policies, or how much citizens must contribute to drug-demand reduction.

These ratios and comparisons raise very relevant questions and hypotheses, the answers to which may be obtained through more in-depth studies.

Comparison ‘across countries’ (the scope of this study) is another dimension of drug-related cost estimates research. As shown in this report, such studies are highly dependent on different data sources and are therefore hampered by the lack of uniformity among the different countries’ methodology, statistics and figures. To overcome these (and other) difficulties, common data collection standards should be implemented. However, such an approach would require investments without yet being certain of the quality and usefulness of the final results. Prior to such investment, further research is needed, together with a deeper reflection on the relevance and utility of such studies at European level.

In the meantime, and while reflection on further development is undertaken among European partners, it is the role of the EMCDDA to continue promoting the improvement of the statistical systems in the field and to disseminate information on the methodologies in use and the research undertaken.

(113)  Kopp and Fenoglio (2003), Uhl (2001), ONDCP (2001). Godfrey et al. (2002) and Origer (2002), See also the national focal points from Austria, Portugal, Spain and Greece, in the framework of the 2002 Reitox national reports.