Thursday, March 13, 2014

Americans Spending $100 Billion on Illegal Drugs Annually

The U.S. White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) commissioned the RAND Corporation to investigate how much Americans were spending on the four most common illegal drugs from 2000-2010. The study, published recently on the website, uses a variety of sources to develop an estimate in yearly spending by consumers of cannabis, heroin, cocaine (including crack), and methamphetamine. Their conclusion: over $100 billion is spent on just these four drugs, every year. Interestingly, this number has stayed relatively constant throughout the past decade, despite the $25.2 billion that was spent "to reduce drug use and its consequences" in the US in fiscal year 2014 alone (!).

Since 2002, spending on cocaine and marijuana has flipped. Researchers note that cocaine consumption has dropped by about half, while marijuana consumption has increased by around 40%. Heroin consumption has remained stable throughout the decade, with a small increase detected in the later years. Methamphetamine consumption, the authors note, has been harder to track, as "national datasets do not do a good job of capturing its use." Across the board, heavy users are the main drivers of spending and consumption, and are defined as folks who use at least 21 days/month.

The authors culled data from a variety of sources, including the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program, various law enforcement and seizure databases, and more. Despite the apparent rigor involved in the creation of these estimates, the authors caution about the inherent uncertainty in this type of data analysis - especially considering that the bulk of the data came from self-report surveys.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that despite the increasing public investments in the so-called War on Drugs, demand-side consumption and expenditures are constant or rising throughout the country. Could this be one reason the Attorney General has agreed to endorse changes to Federal drug sentencing? What do readers think about the current state of availability and expense?

You can read the full report here:

1 comment:

  1. Predictably, this under-reports an emerging pattern of recreational drug use involving novel psychoactive substances. This varied group includes synthetic cannabinoids; analogs of cathinone, methcathinone, and MDMA (ecstasy); other hallucinogenic and mixed hallucinogen/stimulant/entactogenic derivatives and analogs of phenethylamine; Kratom and Salvia divinorum; the ketamine analog methoxetamine, and others. These are bought from Internet sources, and sometimes OTC as the constituents of products sold as Spice, Bath Salts and the like, although most of the original unregulated molecules in these products are now banned by the DEA. I'm surprised heroin use has not risen more prominently; this is most certainly due to time factor lag between data collecting and availability/reporting.
    Mark Edmund Rose, MA
    Licensed Psychologist


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