A new study published in the British Medical Journal Open finds that the prices of illegal drugs have generally declined while their purity has increased over the past twenty years, raising questions about the effectiveness of international law enforcement efforts to reduce drug supply. Researchers from the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy reviewed two decades of global drug surveillance data, finding that the supply of major illegal drugs has increased, as measured through a decline in the price, while there has been a corresponding general increase in the purity of illegal drugs.
“These findings add to the growing body of evidence that the war on drugs has failed,” said study co-author Dr. Evan Wood, Scientific Chair of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy and Canada Research Chair in Inner City Medicine at the University of British Columbia. “We should look to implement policies that place community health and safety at the forefront of our efforts, and consider drug use a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue. With the recognition that efforts to reduce drug supply are unlikely to be successful, there is a clear need to scale up addiction treatment and other strategies that can effectively reduce drug-related harm.”
Researchers reviewed indicators of drug supply in consumer markets such as Europe, the United States, and Australia, and drug seizures in drug-producing regions such as Latin America, Afghanistan, and Southeast Asia. Data were derived from government surveillance systems. The study found that:
- With the exception of powder cocaine, the purity and/or potency of illegal drugs in the U.S. generally increased during the study period;
- The price of illegal drugs, with few exceptions, generally decreased globally; and,
- Seizures of cannabis, cocaine, and opiates generally increased in major drug production regions and major domestic markets.
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