Law enforcement still accounts for the lion's share of Australian governments' spending on illicit drugs, according to the first comprehensive review of drug policy spending in a decade.

The review Government Drug Policy Expenditure in Australia -- 2009/10, which looked at spending on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and law enforcement, found that spending on harm reduction measures fell over the period while prevention and treatment spending remained steady.

In 2009/10 federal and state governments spent a total of $1.7 billion* in direct response to illicit drug use including:

  • $1.12 billion on law enforcement -- two thirds of the total spend (66%)
  • $361 million on treatment -- just over a fifth (21%)
  • $157 million on prevention -- just under a tenth (9%)
  • $36 million on harm reduction -- (2%)
  • State and territory government spending accounted for more than two thirds of the spend (69%)

Lead author of the report Professor Alison Ritter, Director of the Drug Policy Modelling Program at UNSW's National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), said that while spending on policing was high and had increased over that period, even allowing for inflation, it was not inconsistent with spending in other developed nations, such as the USA, UK, Sweden and the Netherlands.

However she said the drop in spending on harm reduction and the stable treatment spending over the period was concerning.

For the full story go to the NDARC website