Illegal drugs destroy lives. But despite efforts by the government and concerned agencies to totally eradicate them, they continue to flourish not just in the U.S., but in other parts of the world as well. And interestingly enough, reports show that they are also affected by many of the same factors that affect the prices and availability of basic commodities that we use on a daily basis.
The average person doesn’t know how the markets for illicit drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, really work because they are hidden from public view. However, data and reports compiled by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE) give us some rare insights on how their prices and potency change over time.
STRIDE’s data visualization shows a downward trend for drug prices, which, according to the DEA, is a continuation of a decades-long trend. There are a number of factors that can diminish the price of illegal drugs. Among them are organizational changes by drug traffickers, which include improvements in the processes they use to manufacture and transport drugs into and across the country. Changes in demand, meanwhile, are generally affected by changes in drug availability and substitution of one drug for another.
Another major factor that affects illegal drug prices and potency is competition among drug dealers. For instance, if a local dealer has a monopoly of drug sales in a particular area, he can easily increase prices without having the need to improve the potency and purity of the drugs he’s offering. On the other hand, if there are other dealers operating in the area, he may be forced to sell drugs that are more potent or have better quality.
In 1990s to the early 2000s, demand for cocaine remained relatively unchanged. However, it declined by 50% between 2006 and 2010. The decline in demand was said due, in part, to a decrease in the availability of Colombian coca, the crackdown on and violence between drug traffickers in Mexico, and the implementation of policies to reduce the availability of chemicals used in the production of cocaine. Because of the significant decrease in supply, street prices of cocaine increased during the same period.
Before the mid-2000s, methamphetamine was easy to acquire. However, that changed when federal laws restricting the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine went into effect in 2005. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are two of the key ingredients used in making methamphetamine, but they can also be easily found in leading cold, allergy, and sinus medicines.
When the feds clamped down on the sales of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, methamphetamine became more expensive because it became harder to obtain. However, meth prices declined later on as drug cartels focus their attention on making more methamphetamine amid the decreasing prices of marijuana and growing popularity of cocaine.
According to STRIDE, the drug market is so volatile it can be difficult to predict where it is headed towards next. However, in recent years, there has been a reportedly small uptick in heroin use that coincides with the growing number of reports of heroin and opioid overdoses in the country. Experts said it is very likely that there will be an increase in both heroin demand and price in the next few years.