The latest data from seven international government-funded drug surveillance systems indicates that the so-called ‘war’ on drugs is failing. Over the past 20 years, not only have street prices fallen but the purity/potency of illegal drugs has actually increased.
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New research funded by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy has confirmed that government-led crackdowns on illegal drugs fail to curb supply, despite a marked increase in law enforcement resources to combat the problem.
The research team collected data from seven international drug surveillance databases — including the Illicit Drug Reporting System in Australia — and systematically searched for longitudinal measures of illegal drug supply indicators to assess the long-term impact of enforcement-based supply reduction interventions. Each database contained at least ten years of information on the price and purity of cannabis, cocaine and opiates, including heroin.
The report found that with few exceptions, the purity/potency of illegal drugs either remained stable or increased between 1990 and 2010. Meanwhile, the street price of each drug generally fell over the same time period.
This study demonstrates that during the past two decades, the supply of major illegal drugs has increased, as measured through a general decline in the price and a general increase in the purity of illegal drugs in a variety of settings.
In Australia, the average inflation-adjusted price of cocaine decreased 14 percent, while the inflation-adjusted price of heroin and cannabis both decreased 49 percent between 2000 and 2010.
In the USA the price drop was even more significant, with the average inflation-adjusted prices of heroin, cocaine and cannabis decreasing by 81 percent, 80 percent and 86 percent respectively. (Insert ‘Aussie tax’ joke here.)
The report concludes that despite large investments in enforcement-based supply reduction efforts aimed at disrupting global drug supply, illegal drug prices have generally decreased while drug purity has generally increased since 1990.
“These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing.”