Attention to national drug use trends data has been important in the United States since the turn of the 20th century. In an age where communities face imminent, substantial budget cuts, understanding the drug problem in one’s community and sharing that information with policymakers and practitioners is essential, especially when an increase in service demand is coupled with a decreasing resource supply. Both the DAWN and DUF/ADAM programs have significantly contributed to the nation’s ability to document such information for over 20 years.
At the turn of the 20th century, the U.S. government began instituting laws to reduce the availability of illicit drugs and to criminalize their use. The passage of laws continued and eventually culminated in 1971, when the first war on drugs was declared by President Nixon. As a result, stricter anti-drug laws were passed at the state and federal levels, and the Drug Enforcement Agency was created to enforce federal laws throughout the nation. Legislative reaction to illicit drug use primarily originated from concerns about marijuana, cocaine, and opiate use; however, the use of methamphetamine, club drugs (e.g., Ecstasy, LSD), and the illegal use of prescription drugs has garnered substantial attention from policymakers and law enforcement over the last 10 to 20 years.
Despite increased concerns over the use of these drugs, accurately documenting the extent of the drug problem was impossible until the 1970s because there were no standardized surveillance systems to measure the type or extent of drug use across the nation. To address this issue, the U.S. government began funding national data collection systems. Two primary data systems established during this time were the Drug Abuse Warning System (DAWN) and the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (ADAM, originally known as the Drug Use Forecasting Program).