Research: War On Drugs Floods Black Market With Cheaper, Higher-Quality Drugs


For decades, officials throughout the world have attempted to curb the supply of illicit drugs with a combination of prohibition and heavy-handed law enforcement tactics. In the United States, billions of dollars have been pumped into local law enforcement agencies and millions of nonviolent offenders imprisoned in an effort to quell drug supply.

The strategy has not only failed in the U.S, but internationally, according to new research published in the journal BMJ Open.

The research indicates that since the anti-drug crusades of the U.S. and its international counterparts reached a sort of peak in 1990, the price of illicit drugs has fallen and their potency and purity have increased. In other words, despite throwing millions of people in prison cells and investing billions in anti-drug enforcement, drugs users have access to higher-quality, lower-cost substances than they did a little more than two decades ago.

The United Nations recently estimated that the global black market for drugs is worth at least $350 billion annually.

The researchers of the study published in BMJ Open analyzed the government-funded drug surveillance systems of seven countries to reach the following conclusions: The purity/potency of illegal drugs either remained stable or increased between 1990 and 2010; with few exceptions, the street price generally fell; and seizures of drugs increased in both the countries of major supply and demand.

“In particular, the data presented in this study suggest that the supply of opiates and cannabis have increased, given the increasing potency and decreasing prices of these illegal commodities,” the researchers write.

In the U.S., for example, the average street price of heroin, cocaine and cannabis fell by 81 percent, 80 percent and 86 percent, respectively; the purity and/or potency of the same three drugs increased by 60 percent, 11 percent and 161 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, U.S. seizures of cocaine roughly halved between 1990 and 2010; but those of cannabis and heroin rose by 465 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Similar trends were noted in Australia and in European countries with drug policies similar to those in the U.S.

The researchers behind the study say that the fact that current approaches have done little to reduce the drugs supply, despite costing billions of dollars and imprisoning millions of people, is reason to consider new approaches to drug policy.

“These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing,” they write.

The researchers conclude, “It is hoped that this study highlights the need to re-examine the effectiveness of national and international drug strategies that place a disproportionate emphasis on supply reduction at the expense of evidence based prevention and treatment of problematic illegal drug use.”

While the American taxpayer will never benefit from a perpetually failing war on drugs, there are some organizations that do — private prison companies, police departments receiving Federal kickbacks and pharmaceutical and other legal drug companies — and they are dedicated to maintaining the failed status quo.

Personal Liberty

Sam Rolley

Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After covering community news and politics, Rolley took a position at Personal Liberty Media Group where could better hone his focus on his true passions: national politics and liberty issues. In his daily columns and reports, Rolley works to help readers understand which lies are perpetuated by the mainstream media and to stay on top of issues ignored by more conventional media outlets.

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  • dan

    Glad to see the CIA is fianally getting some quality control….

  • Chris

    You see ads all over the place on TV about smoking cigarettes. There “used” to be ads on TV to “say no to drugs”……….you don’t see these ads anymore and there needs to be much stronger anti-drug ads on TV……….none were ever that strong in saying what needed to be said.

    • Karolyn

      They don’t work anyway. People who have a penbchant for getting high will do it anyway – unless they decide not to; and that has nothing to do with advertising. It’s a personal choice.

  • Vigilant

    “Research: War On Drugs Floods Black Market With Cheaper, Higher-Quality Drugs”

    PLD seems to have a penchant for the tabloid-style headline that summarizes a conclusion that is unsupported by fact.

    The headline baldly states that the flooding of the market with cheap drugs is the result of the war on drugs, i.e., that the war on drugs CAUSED the increase of cheap drugs. Nothing in the article supports this.

    That the war on drugs is failing to curb demand is one thing, as is the fact that technological advances in synthetic drug production have decreased cost to produce. But to surmise that law enforcement efforts are the proximate cause of increased purity and lower prices is ludicrous to say the least.


    i’ll tell you,i don’t agree with drug’s at all.i look like i use sell and abuse drug’s!
    that’s right,i’m a biker and i don’t use drugs!i tought that to all my kids and pound it into their heads!and none of them have been caught at anything to do with drugs(not saying their innocent)and if they do,i haven’t seen anything!but my one son’s friend(25)got busted with plants,he just went away for 40+on his charges!.the gov’t laws have just ripped this kids entire life out from under him!40+YEARS!WTF?!FOR PLANTS AND SOME PAPERS AND BONGS!!!
    this system is totally FU*KED UP!theliberals will not look at what they are doing to the people at all!they don’t care,they are trying to get a zero tolerance just like islamic countries!thank obama and his henchmen for that!we are not an islamic nation,but that’s what they want it to run like!prohabition didn’t work and you can plainly see this isn’t working and people will not stop doing it!
    look at all the union workers who got busted for smoking and drinking on the job(every branch of unions)almost no one goes to jail,and they get to keep their jobs!WTF?!regular people go to prison!they don’t!what does that tell you about the gov’t??

    • Karolyn

      It’s not liberals! Obama is NOT a liberal! Conservatives support the war on drugs more so than liberals. It is not just limited to one ideology.

    • John Page

      The war on Drugs was launched by Nixon (who coined the term) =. he was a Republican. It was greatly expanding by Reagan (the president not the myth). His wife championed DARE as an extension of this. They were both Republicans. The largest influx of resources to the war on drugs came from George W. Bush. Also a Republican. While I personally believe both sides are somewhat responsible for the state of our nation, the War on Drugs falls squarely on Republican shoulders.

  • Karolyn

    The government/DEA is too stupid to read the writing on the wall. STOP THE WAR ON DRUGS!

  • FreedomTrainUSA

    Under the Dictator and his Regime…along with the rest of the Marxist Socialist D****RATS…the Black Market and Underground Economies are Flourishing…

  • Michael Shreve

    At what point does ANY government admit policy failure. NEVER? Prohibition has never succeeded, it merely CREATES additional criminal classes.

  • rbrooks

    end the gop religious war on drugs.