Data: A Cost-Ineffective Drug War


One sign of a successful law-enforcement war on drugs should be rising prices for the outlawed substances. If federal agents are successfully sealing the border and police efforts are genuinely making trafficking riskier, drugs should become more expensive. As the price data below for cocaine indicate, it hasn't worked out that way. (Similar trends can also be observed for other illegal drugs, such as marijuana, LSD, and heroin.)

Indeed, because the prices have not been adjusted for inflation, their seeming stability actually masks a decrease in cost. Over the same period, the government estimates that demand for drugs has remained relatively constant. In 1990, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reported 0.9 percent of people aged 12 and older had used cocaine in the previous month. In 1991, the percentage peaked at 1 percent, before declining to 0.7 for 1992-1995.