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The social cost of legal and illegal drugs in Belgium (SOCOST)

Research project DR/65 (Research action DR)


Persons :


Description :

Previous innovative research projects, financed by the Federal Research Programme on Drugs of the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO), have focused on the evaluation of public expenditures associated to drugs (illegal and legal). We can refer to the studies Drugs in figures I (De Ruyver et al., 2004), II (De Ruyver et al., 2007) and III (Vander Laenen et al., 2011). However, the social and economic burden of drugs on the Belgian society is more extensive than what can be estimated by a public expenditures approach. Only social cost studies are able to provide the social cost of addictive substances in a given society. Social cost studies are an elementary step in drug policy analyses, and they are used to estimate the costs that result from the use of substances (Moore & Caulkins, 2006).

The current study ‘The social cost of legal and illegal drugs in Belgium’, with the acronym ‘SOCOST’, carries out a first estimate of social costs for addictive substances in Belgium. The term ‘substances’ must be understood as the umbrella term for illegal drugs, tobacco, alcohol and psychoactive medication. The research has five objectives:
(1) To define the concept of ‘social cost’ and to draw up an inventory of various methods used in (inter)national studies that estimate social costs on different addictive substances (illegal drugs, tobacco, alcohol and psychoactive medication).
(2) To screen the existing national and international data(sources) that can be accessed and used to carry out the first estimation of social costs of addictive substances in Belgium.
(3) To carry out a first estimation of social costs (and benefits) for legal and illegal drugs in Belgium.
(4) To make a SWOT-analysis of the research method and to formulate recommendations to improve future estimations.
(5) To formulate general conclusions and policy recommendation based on the results of the first estimation of social costs in Belgium.

These objectives will be attained by means of a study of literature, an analysis of (inter)national data(bases), a data-collection and -analysis and a SWOT-analysis.


Documentation :

Studievoormiddag "Wie betaalt de rekening? De sociale kost van legale en illegale drugs in België" (28-04-2016) Programma

Matinée d'étude "Qui paye la note? Le coût social des drogues licites et illicites en Belgique" (28-04-2016) Programme


  • Press article

    The social cost of legal and illegal drugs in Belgium : summary (SOCOST)  Vander Laenen, Freya - Lievens, Delfine - Pauwels, Lieven ... et al  Brussels : Belgian scientific Policy, 2016 (SP2641)
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    De sociale kost van legale en iiegale drugs in België : samenvatting  Vander Laenen, Freya - Lievens, Delfine - Pauwels, Lieven ... et al  Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2015 (SP2642)
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    Le coût social des drogues légales et illégales en Belgique : résumé  Vander Laenen, Freya - Lievens, Delfine - Pauwels, Lieven ... et al  Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2015 (SP2643)
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    The social cost of legal and illegal drugs in Belgium : final report (SOCOST)  Vander Laenen, Freya - Lievens, Delfine - Pauwels, Lieven ... et al  Brussels : Belgian scientific Policy, 2017 (SP2689)
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