National Survey on Drug Policy Shows Education and Insurance-Paid Treatment Best Tools for Curbing Abuse

Assessing support for changes in U.S. drug abuse policy

From February 2001 through February 2004, researchers at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) surveyed 1,004 adults across the country to determine their preferences regarding education, interdiction (preventing drugs from entering the country), law enforcement and treatment alternatives for addressing the nation's drug problem.

They also studied whether respondents' political beliefs, attitudes towards substance abusers and demographic characteristics influenced their policy preferences.

The study was funded under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) (for more information see Program Results).

Key Findings: This section includes one key finding from each of four papers/analyses.

From an article entitled "Five Grams of Coke: Racism, Moralism and White Public Opinion on Sanctions for First Time Possession" published in the International Journal of Drug Policy:

  • The relationship between racial beliefs of white respondents and punitive attitudes toward people with drug addiction was indirect. Racial sentiments influenced beliefs about the morality of drug use, and beliefs that drug use is immoral influenced attitudes regarding punitive sanctions.

From an unpublished article entitled "Public Support for Substance Abuse Policy: Results of a National Survey":

  • Some 46.7 percent of respondents chose drug education in schools as the most important drug policy, followed by interdiction (23.2%), law enforcement (18.6%) and treatment (11.4%).

From an unpublished article entitled "Public Support for Substance Abuse Treatment Coverage: Results of a National Survey":

  • Two-thirds of respondents felt that insurance should provide at least some coverage for drug treatment.

From a report to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment entitled "Stigma Associated with Drug Addiction: Report of a Language Audit Based on the Results of a National Survey of Drug Policy":

  • Holding stigmatizing attitudes towards drug addicts was related to:
    • Less support for drug treatment.
    • More support for criminalization of drug offenses.
    • Less support for insurance coverage for drug addiction treatment.
    • A stronger belief that it is risky to hire a person who has had a drug addiction.

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