Drug Policy: Preliminary Remarks on the National Drug Control Strategy 2022

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Federal efforts to prevent, respond to, and recover from substance abuse have been on our high-risk list since 2021.

We have witnessed our preliminary observations on the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s 2022 National Drug Control Strategy. The strategy aims to reduce the supply and demand for illegal drugs; and advancing prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery.

Our preliminary review of the available documents indicates that ONDCP included some, but not all, types of information in the strategy that are required by federal law. More information may be included in additional documents ONDCP plans to release later this year.

highlights

What GAO found

Federal drug control efforts span a range of activities, including prevention, treatment, interdiction, international operations, and law enforcement. These efforts represent a significant federal investment. The federal budget for drug control for fiscal year 2022 was over $39 billion, and the federal government has more than a dozen agencies tasked with combating drug abuse and its effects.

Presentation of various narcotics

Presentation of various narcotics

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is responsible for coordinating and overseeing the efforts of more than a dozen federal agencies to combat illicit drug use. It released six of its eight documents comprising the 2022 National Drug Control Strategy on April 21, 2022. ONDCP expects to publish the remaining two documents to complete the strategy later this year. GAO’s preliminary review of available policy documents against selected regulatory requirements shows that ONDCP has included certain regulatory information. For example, it included annual quantifiable and measurable goals and specific goals to achieve long-term quantifiable goals. However, GAO was unable to determine whether the strategy included statutory information on performance evaluation planning, estimates of resources needed to achieve goals, and a systematic plan to increase data collection. This is partly because the strategy references this information in documents that are not yet available. The ONDCP may include this information in the accompanying documents of the National Drug Control Strategy, which it intends to release later this year.

Why GAO did this study

A record 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021. In 2020, GAO determined that drug abuse was a high risk and subsequently added it to the 2021 High-Risk Series update. We recognized the importance of a national drug control strategy to reduce drug overdose deaths. Substance abuse — the use of illicit drugs and misuse of prescription drugs — is an ongoing and long-standing public health challenge in the United States that has resulted in significant deaths and negative social and economic impacts. These costs are borne by people who abuse drugs, their families and employers, private companies and nonprofit organizations, and federal, state, and local governments. GAO has a body of work on drug policy and ongoing work on ONDCP efforts, including the issuance of the National Drug Control Strategy.

This statement provides preliminary GAO observations on the 2022 National Drug Control Strategy and related findings from select GAO reports on federal drug control efforts. It is based on GAO’s ongoing work, three reports issued by GAO in March 2019, December 2019, and March 2020, and selected updates to recommendations from those reports as of June 2022. For ongoing work and updates to recommendations, contact the GAO’s 2022 National Drug Control Strategy evaluated against selected regulatory requirements, reviewed ONDCP documents and interviewed ONDCP officials. GAO selected these regulatory requirements because they relate to the goals and associated resources expected to be outlined in the 2022 National Drug Control Strategy.

For more information, contact Triana McNeil at (202) 512-8777 or [email protected]

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