Jonathan P. Caulkins

Title of Presentation: Providing a Scientific Basis for Managing Illegal Drug Problem

APORS 2009

Jaipur, India


Illegal drugs pose serious problems that vex policy makers throughout the world. Globalization and increasing affluence in rapidly developing countries have triggered substantial increase in rates of addiction in places where use was once rare. For Afghanistan and its neighbor there are particularly vexing connections between the profits from drug trafficking and the funding of insurgencies.The tools of operations research, industrial organizations, and economics can be harnessed to provide an empirical, scientific basis for drug policy making. Data are drawn from epidemiological studies, forensic laboratory, analysis, undercover buys, and extensive interviews with incarcerated drug smugglers and dealers. This talk focuses on drug initiation (product diffusion), price responsiveness (elasticity of demand), and operation of the illegal supply chain, both during normal times and when distribution network is disrupted. Resulting understanding provides the foundation for estimating the cost-effectiveness of different broad strategies for controlling drug use and associated social harms.

The success of Operations Research in the nontraditional domain can be viewed as an encouraging case study for those interested in tackling kindred issues such as terrorism, human trafficking, and financial crime and also social issues more generally, ranging from economic development to environmental management.


Jonathan P. Caulkins is Professor of Operations Research and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Qatar Campus and Heinz College. Caulkins specializes in mathematical modeling and systems analysis of social policy problems, particularly issues pertaining to drugs, crime, violence, and prevention. He is a past co-director of RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center (1994-1996) and founding Director of RAND’s Pittsburgh office (1999-2001). Dr. Caulkins also publishes on software quality and optimal dynamic control applications in housing, counter-terror, and fashion.

Dr. Caulkins received a B.S., and M.S. in Systems Science from Washington University, an S.M. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and Ph.D., in Operations Research both from M.I.T.