This from theage.com (Australia) : Illicit drug fight costs '$3.2b a year' August 11, 2006 - 12:14AM Australia's fight against illicit drugs costs about $3.2 billion a year, with more than half blown on drug-related policing, a hard-hitting report has found. An ambitious independent report has calculated for the first time how much money state and federal governments spend on drug prevention, treatment and the consequences of addiction. The document estimates that in the 2002-03 financial year the country spent between $1.5 billion and $4.9 billion on fighting illegal drugs. But the researchers involved with the project are concerned the governments are "running blind" - spending money with no clue of the return on their investment. "That's a lot of money and the fact that we spend this every year means we should really known more about what works - but we don't and the governments don't either," said chief investigator Alison Ritter, from Sydney's National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC). Prof Ritter said the agency was particularly concerned that of the average $3.2 billion spent each year, only $1.3 billion - or 40 per cent - was spent on proactive programs of treatment and prevention to improve the drug situation and the lives of drug users. That leaves 60 per cent spent mopping up problematic consequences of drug use, like property crime and hospitalisation. "We'd like to see this priority change so that governments are spending much more on direct responses to drugs like education, law enforcement and treatment and much less on the consequences," Prof Ritter told AAP. The report found that 56 per cent of all spending went on law enforcement, another 23 per cent was outlaid on prevention strategies and only 17 per cent went to treatment. World Health Organisation research has found that every dollar spent on treatment saves seven dollars, so Australia should be spending more, the University of NSW researcher said. "Certainly 17 per cent seems a very low figure given that we know how well the treatment works and what a good investment it is," she said. The statistics also showed that the commonwealth paid only 20 per cent of the total tab, leaving state and territory governments to pick up the remaining $2.6 billion. This was concerning, Prof Ritter said, especially if it indicated federal underfunding which was being picked up at a state level. The Drug Policy Modelling Program report was produced by the NDARC, and other research centres to kick off a five year project to work out the best investment mix. "We aim to improve Australian drug policy by providing evidence about what's good value for money and improving the way decisions get made and what we should be spending money on," Prof Ritter said. She said governments needed to be accountable for their spending but it was clear they did not know the return they were getting on their investment. "The Australian public has the right to know the impact of this expenditure and whether we are getting the mix right." She said Australia was running blind, largely because illicit drug policy was a "highly complicated and politicised arena". Alcohol and Drug Council of Australia chief executive Donna Bull agreed, saying it was time to change the way policies were developed. "Some the decisions that have been made have often been based on political expediency or strategies that are palatable for the community rather than what's supported by the evidence," Ms Bull told AAP. "This provides a really authoritative basis upon which to determine appropriate value for money investment."