The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recently released its 2017 budget projections. Despite the well documented rise in abuse of prescription opioids and increasing amounts of street drugs contaminated with deadly fentanyl, the NIDA’s 2017 budget proposal shows no increase from the budget enacted in 2016.

The 2017 proposed NIDA budget is approximately $1.05 billion. That is the same total as the funding the institute received in 2016. The NIDA saw a similar budget hold between 2014 and 2015, where the year over year budget remained roughly the same at approximately $1.015 billion. However, the following year (2016), the budget increased by nearly $35 million. Similarly, NIDA funding rose by approximately $23.6 million, from $992.2 million to $1.015 billion between 2013 and 2014. That increase brought the budget above $1 billion for the first time.

The NIDA budget increases or lack thereof don’t seem to coincide with drug abuse trends. According to year over year data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUHs) conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), between 2012 and 2013, the number of survey respondents who reported using illicit drugs rose by 2,650. Assuming the survey is a representative sampling of America, that increase is significant enough to increase funding to the NIDA, which is exactly what happened in 2014. The year over year jump the following year was even bigger, 2,874. If an increase of 2,650 was worth raising the NIDA budget by $23.6 million, then an increase of 2,874 must be worth an increase of at least the same amount. But, we saw no increase in 2015. The following year, the increase in survey respondents reporting they used illicit drugs only rose by 278, yet the NIDA funding rose by $35 million. The allocation of funding for the NIDA doesn’t seem to be related to the illicit drug use numbers.

The fluctuation of the NIDA budget doesn’t match up with the rates of opioid abuse either. According to the same NSDUH data, the number of survey respondents reporting nonmedical use of prescription painkillers actually dropped by 1,572 between 2012 and 2013, going from 37,045 to 35,473. Then it rose by 591 between 2013 and 2014, climbing to 36,064. Concerned the self-reported information on prescription drug abuse in the surveys was unreliable, SAMHSA changed the criteria and naming convention for the 2015 survey from “nonmedical” use to “misuse.” In this survey, only 307 respondents reported misuse of prescription painkillers. The change in terminology makes comparing the two data sets akin to the old adage of comparing apples to oranges. This is evidenced by the huge change from one year to the next. With the change of over 35,000 accompanying a change in terminology, drawing any type of conclusion as to the cause of the drastic change proves problematic. This makes the change in data unusable for informing budget decisions.

The budget changes likely have less to do with drug abuse issues and more to do with budgetary concerns from other government departments or possibly timing conflict between the availability of data and the deadline for budget proposals. No matter how the budgeters arrive at their proposal each year, it is clearly a large amount of money. So, how is it spent? The budget breaks down as follows:

$178.38 million allocated to the Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences, $458 thousand less than in 2016. This department works with pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and academic institutions, to develop medications for treating substance abuse disorder. These efforts include current research on developing a nicotine vaccine.

$350.136 million allocated to the Division of Neuroscience and Behavior, $899 thousand less than in 2016. This division researches the neurological and behavioral process involved in substance use disorders. Its main objective is to identify the individual factors that contribute to drug abuse and the risk of addiction. A major part of this research includes gathering and mapping large amounts of data to gain a deeper understanding of the connection between genetics and addiction.

$323.375 million allocated to the Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research, $830 thousand less than in 2016. This department studies how an individual’s environment contributes to drug abuse. This includes studying trends in substance abuse disorders following changes in drug enforcement policies.

$43.140 million allocated to the Center for the Clinical Trials Network, $111 thousand less than in 2016. This department conducts research on the efficacy of different substance abuse treatment methods. It includes over 240 treatment programs across the United States.

$91.657 million allocated to intramural research, $1.354 million more than in 2016. The research in this department spans multiple disciplines and focuses on long-term developmental effects of substance abuse on the human body’s organs and systems. This includes identifying patterns associated with cravings, with the goal of being able to intervene before a person craving a substance has a chance to use it.

$63.862 million allocated to research management and support, $944 thousand more than in 2016. These funds go to what are essentially administrative costs.

If the war on drugs is to have any success, we must address both the supply of drugs and the demand for them. As the DEA continually tries to disrupt the supply of drugs in America, the NIDA works to understand the complex array of elements that go into the demand for drugs and seeks to reduce it where possible. The NIDA also devotes time, personnel, and your tax dollars to finding the best treatment options for people suffering from substance use disorder. With a budget of over a billion dollars, hopefully the NIDA will soon make the next big breakthrough that quells the demand for drugs in America.

If you or a loved one have an addiction to alcohol, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs within the safe and nurturing confines of our rehab treatment centers. Located throughout California, in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and in Portland, OR, our mission is to assess the severity of your addiction to help you achieve true recovery within 30 days. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.

A Closer Look at the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Billion Dollar Budget