The purity of illegal drugs has increased and their price decreased over the last 20 years, according to a major new study which concluded global antinarcotics efforts have had little impact on the flow of drugs.
Researchers writing in the British Medical Journal's BMJ Open publication analyzed data from seven government surveillance systems to look for patterns in seizures, pricing and purity of cannabis, opiates and cocaine between 1990 and 2010.
The report found the purity of cocaine available in the United States between 1990 and 2007 increased by 11 percent while its price dropped by 80 percent. The purity of heroin increased by 60 percent while its price dropped by 81 percent, whereas cannabis herb saw an increase in purity of 161 percent and a drop in price of 86 percent. Across 18 European countries, the street price of cocaine fell by 51 percent between 1990 and 2009.
Looking at cocaine production in the Andean region of Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, the report found seizures of cocaine had dropped 81 percent between 1990 and 2007 while seizures of coca leaf had risen 188 percent. The area of land used for coca cultivation, meanwhile, fell around 14 percent.
Reseachers concluded that the supply of major illegal drugs had increased during the past two decades and efforts to control the market through law enforcement were failing.
InSight Crime Analysis
This study, which looked at wide-ranging and reputable data sets, such as the Drug Seizure Database from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, presents a damning picture of global antinarcotics efforts over the last 20 years. While billions of dollars have been spent, hundreds of captures made and vast amounts of illegal crops eradicated, the market has continued to boom. In fact, it has only improved for consumers, who can now get better drugs at a cheaper price than ever.
Annual assessments from the US National Defense Intelligence College found cocaine price increased significantly and purity decreased between 2006 and 2010, while the Drug Enforcement Administation has periodically reported similar findings over relatively short time periods. However the BMJ study indicates that over a long period of time the opposite has happened, reflecting findings reported in a long term study by the US government's Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Meanwhile, though law enforcement efforts have certainly made major strides in capturing leading drug traffickers, causing disruption and fragmentation of large criminal organizations, this study adds to the evidence that suggests such successes have not stemmed the flow of illegal drugs.