The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is the prevailing “drug abuse” control statute in the United States. Its manifest objective is to prevent or reduce drug use's “substantial and detrimental effect on the health and general welfare of the American people.” Evaluating CSA's effectiveness in 1975, a Domestic Council Task Force reported in a White Paper to President Gerald Ford that its control measures do “reduce abuse of dangerous drugs.” The Task Force's evidence was based upon a before-and-after analysis of the frequency of “drug abuse episodes” reported to the nation's Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN).

This research note challenges the conclusion of the Domestic Council Task Force, subjecting the DAWN evidence to more rigorous scrutiny, and concluding that we do not presently have adequate materials to assess whether CSA meets its health objectives. The context of this conclusion is that of drug control, but its implications apply to health policy and health policy evaluation in general.

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