Cost Analysis of the Country of Georgia's Street Level Drug Testing Policy

Dessa Bergen-Cico, David Otiashvili, Irma Kirtadze, Tomas Zabransky, Vano Tsertsvadze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2006 the country of Georgia implemented Article 45 of the Administrative code and Article 273 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, a public policy that enable police to detain any individual, anywhere, at any time on grounds of suspicion of drug use; and require them to submit to urine screening to test for the presence of illegal drugs and their metabolites. This policy is referred to as the street drug testing policy. Positive drug screening results in fines and potential jail time. The purpose of this paper is to conduct a cost analysis of this policy and assess the execution of the policy and the extent to which the policy meets its stated aims. This study employed cost analysis methodology to calculate annual direct material and labor costs associated with carrying out Georgia's street level drug testing policy. These costs encompassed law enforcement, drug testing, associated judicial processes, imprisonment and income offset through fines collected during the two years covered in this study (2008 and 2014). In addition, we measured: fidelity of the execution of the policy measured by the accuracy of the percentage of people detained who were found to actually have used drugs; and the policy's effectiveness in deterring drug use among those who tested positive. Impact on drug use behavior was measured through impact analysis interviews conducted with a national sample of 500 detainees who tested positive for drugs under Article 45 and Article 273. Using conservative financial estimates the cost of carrying out the policy offset by fine revenues broke even in 2008 (-111,889 GEL); however, by 2014 the costs increased 20% in conjunction with an 18% increase in the number of people detained for testing. However, the percentage of people who tested positive for drugs declined 39% indicating decreased fidelity in the execution of the policy; accompanied by a financial imbalance of -10,277,909 GEL. Moreover, effectiveness analysis revealed that within one month of being detained and having tested positive for drug use, over 90% of individuals had returned to pre-detention drug use levels, and within 12 months 100% of detainees had resumed prior drug use behaviors. The financial costs associated with Georgia's street level drug screening policy has rapidly increased while becoming decreasingly accurate and efficient in its execution. Moreover, data indicates that the policy is not effective in reducing or stopping drug use among those who tested positive. In conclusion, it is fiscally unsustainable to continue the policy as it is being executed and the policy is ineffective in changing drug use behavior among people who use illegal substances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Drug Policy Analysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • cost analysis
  • drug policy
  • drug testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Administration
  • Health Policy


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