Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Authorities are losing the global battle trying to control illegal drugs, according to a study published in the journal BMJ Open.
Researchers analyzed data from seven international government-funded drug surveillance systems containing 10 years of information on the price and purity of cannabis, cocaine and opiates such as heroin. They also reviewed the number of seizures of illegal drugs in production regions and rates of consumption in markets where demand for illegal drugs is high.
The team found that the purity of these illegal substances is growing, which suggests that the international authorities are losing the battle. Overall, they concluded that the global supply of illicit drugs has not likely been reduced in the past two decades.
“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 authors wrote in the journal. “These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing.”
Scientists found that the purity and potency of illegal drugs either generally remained stable or increased between 1990 and 2010. They also found that the street price has dropped, indicating a jump in the supply, and seizures of drugs increased in countries of major supply and demand.
The average street price of heroin, cocaine and marijuana in the US dropped by over 80 percent over the past two decades, while the purity of these drugs increased by up to 161 percent. The average price of opiates and cocaine in Europe decreased by 74 percent and 51 percent, respectively; in Australia, the price of cannabis dropped by 49 percent while cocaine prices dropped by 14 percent.
In an accompanying podcast, Dr Evan Wood, scientific chair of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy and research chair in Inner City Medicine at the University of British Columbia in Canada, stated, “These findings add to the growing body of evidence that the war on drugs has failed. 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 rather than a criminal justice issue.”
The researchers say they hope their study brings to light the need to improve drug strategies across the globe.
“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,” the authors said.