WASHINGTON -- Concluding that drug rehabilitation programs are "a neglected front line in the war against drug abuse," a panel of experts is proposing a shift in federal resources to improve and expand the nation's drug treatment system.
In a study undertaken by the prestigious Institute of Medicine, researchers found that rehabilitation is an important and cost-effective means of fighting the war on drugs.
"The treatment methods available today can yield benefits . . . that well exceed the costs of delivering these services," Lawrence S. Lewin, chairman of the research panel, said yesterday.
The report evaluated public and private drug treatment services available across the country and concluded that while methods and results vary, treatment programs are beneficial even if some addicts ultimately are unable to kick their habits.
"As with many therapies for chronic problems, even the best interventions work only partially -- some of the time and for some of the people," Lewin said.
The researchers recommended an increase in federal funding for public rehabilitation programs and changes in medical insurance policies to cut the costs of private treatment.
Of the major types of rehabilitation programs, the study found that three -- methadone maintenance, residential therapy and outpatient treatment -- are cost-effective means to reduce drug abuse.
Responding to the report, the White House's Office of National Drug Policy noted that federal spending on drug treatment has increased from $880 million in 1989, when the study began, to more than $1.3 billion in 1990.