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Drug Alcohol Rev. 2011 Jan;30(1):96-100. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2010.00197.x.

Australian governments' spending on preventing and responding to drug abuse should target the main sources of drug-related harm and the most cost-effective interventions.

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National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia.


A notable feature of Australian drug policy is the limited public and professional attention given to the financial costs of drug abuse and to the levels and patterns of government expenditures incurred in preventing and responding to this. Since 1991, Collins and Lapsley have published scholarly reports documenting the social costs of drug abuse in Australia and their reports also contain estimates of governments' drug budgets: revenue and expenditures. They show that, in 2004-2005, Australian governments expended at least $5288 million on drug abuse, with 50% of the expenditure directed to preventing and dealing with alcohol-related problems, 45% to illicit drugs and just 5% to tobacco. Some 60% of the expenditure was directed at drug crime and 37% at health interventions. This pattern of resource allocation does not adequately reflect an evidence-informed policy orientation in that it largely fails to focus on the drug types that are the sources of the most harm (tobacco and alcohol rather than illicit drugs), and the sectors for which we have the strongest evidence of the cost-effectiveness of the available interventions (treatment and harm reduction rather than legislation and law enforcement). The 2010-2014 phase of Australia's National Drug Strategy should include incremental changes to the resource allocation mix, and not simply maintain the historical resource allocation formulae.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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