Massive Spending on “War on Drugs” has Failed to Curb Supply

Thursday, October 03, 2013
(graphic: AP)

Billions of dollars have been spent by nations to stop the illegal drug trade, which shows no signs of slowing down after decades of law enforcement efforts.


A new study published by researchers in the United States and Canada says the crackdown on narcotics and other prohibited substances has not curbed the supply of the $350 billion trade in illegal drugs. Instead, drugs have become cheaper to buy, while their potency has gone up—two important indicators that governments are losing the war on drugs.


The research published in BMJ Open, an open access journal for general medical research, revealed that the average street price of heroin, cocaine and cannabis in the U.S. declined by 81%, 80% and 86%, respectively, from 1990 to 2010.


Meanwhile, the purity/potency of these drugs increased by 60%, 11% and 161%, respectively.


The same thing happened in Europe as well, where the average price of opiates and cocaine fell by 74% and 51%, respectively, during the same period.


In Australia, the price of cocaine fell by 14% and the price of heroin and cannabis dropped by 49%.


The researchers used data from seven international government-funded drug surveillance systems that had compiled at least 10 years of information on the price and purity of cannabis, cocaine and opiates, including heroin.


The study urges a re-examination “of the effectiveness of national and international drug strategies that place a disproportionate emphasis on supply reduction at the expense of evidence based prevention and treatment of problematic illegal drug use,”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

International “War” on Illegal Drugs is Failing to Curb Supply (by flee, BMJ Group Blogs)

The Temporal Relationship Between Drug Supply Indicators: An Audit of International Government Surveillance Systems (by Dan Werb, Thomas Kerr, Bohdan Nosyk, Steffanie Strathdee, Julio Montaner, Evan Wood; BMJ Open)

The Trillion-Dollar Drug War: Was It Really Worth It? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)     

War on Drugs–Truce (by Adrine Akopyan, AllGov)


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