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Published On: Tue, Aug 20th, 2019

Illicit drugs in the US: Big money spent on marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine

By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

People who use drugs in the United States spent on the order of $150 billion on cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine in 2016, according to a new RAND Corporation report. Researchers estimate that from 2006 to 2016, the total amount of money spent by Americans on these four drugs fluctuated between $120 billion and $145 billion each year. By contrast, a different analysis finds that spending on alcohol in the U.S. was estimated to be $158 billion in 2017.

Image/QuinceMedia via pixabay

The marijuana market is roughly the size of the cocaine and methamphetamine markets combined, in fact, total spending on cannabis, from both illegal and state-licensed sources, increased by approximately 50 percent from 2006 to 2016, from $34 billion to $52 billion.

After falling precipitously from 2006 to 2010, cocaine consumption’s decline slowed by 2015. Results suggest there were 2.4 million individuals who used cocaine on four or more days in the past month in 2015 and 2016. Results also suggest that consumption grew in 2016 among a stable number of users as price per pure gram declined.

Heroin consumption increased 10 percent per year between 2010 and 2016.

“To better understand changes in drug use outcomes and the effects of policies, policymakers need to know what is happening in markets for these substances,” said Greg Midgette, the study’s lead author, an assistant professor at University of Maryland and an adjunct policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “But it is challenging to generate these estimates, and given that critical data sources have been eliminated, it will likely be harder to generate these figures in the future.”

In addition to estimating expenditures on cannabis, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, researchers from RAND used a variety of sources of information about drug use and drug prices to also estimate the number of people who use these substances and how much they consume.

From 2010 to 2016, the number of individuals who used cannabis in the past month increased nearly 30 percent, from 25 million to 32 million. Changes in the potency of marijuana and the proliferation of nonflower products such as oils and waxes have made weight-based consumption estimates obsolete and forced a change in how researchers calculate expenditures.

Researchers say their estimates about methamphetamine use are subject to the greatest uncertainty because national data sets do a particularly poor job of capturing its use.

The federal government discontinued a critical data collection effort in 2003, the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring, or ADAM, right before methamphetamine use was believed to be at its first peak during 2004 to 2006.

Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that drug overdose deaths in 2018 exceeded 68,000, of which more than 47,000 involved opioids. Although heroin, prescription opioids, and synthetic opioids (such as fentanyl) receive most of the attention, deaths involving methamphetamine and cocaine are both on the rise. In addition, more than 25 percent of the U.S. population lives in states that have passed laws that allow for-profit firms to produce and sell marijuana for nonmedical purposes to adults ages 21 and older.

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