Recession in Illegal Drug Market Signaled by Falling Youth Use, With Higher Prices and Decreased Purity for Cocaine Nationwide
New Data Indicate Nearly 1 Million Fewer Teen Drug Users 2001–2008, Major Declines in Positive Drug Tests Among U.S. Workforce, and Disruptions in Cocaine Market
President Bush and John Walters, the U.S. “Drug Czar,” released new data Dec. 11 demonstrating significant success reducing drug availability and use. At a roundtable discussion with national leaders in drug use prevention, treatment, and enforcement, the President highlighted results from the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Study (MTF), the DEA's System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE), and workplace drug tests performed by Quest Diagnostics, and commended meeting participants for their dedication to reducing America's drug problem.
Taken together, the data, which cover a broad spectrum of key indicators, offer strong evidence of the effectiveness of a counterdrug strategy which balances reducing drug availability along with drug demand.
The MTF Study, which surveys 8th, 10th, and 12th graders nationwide, shows that in 2008, illicit drug use among youth continued to decline from 2001, with a 25 percent reduction in overall youth drug use over the past seven years. This reduction equates to approximately 900,000 fewer young people using drugs today, compared to 2001. Additional declines in past-month youth use of specific drugs over the seven year period include:
-- 25% reduction in marijuana use;
-- 50% reduction in methamphetamine use;
-- 50% reduction in Ecstasy use; and
-- 33% reduction in steroid use.
Within the context of progress against youth drug use overall, the three data sets reveal steep reductions in availability and use of cocaine specifically over the past two years. Significant changes in the street-level price and purity of cocaine (key indicators of stress in the drug market) suggest the supply of the drug on American streets is dropping. STRIDE data from Jan uary 2007 through September 2008 show a staggering 89 percent increase in the average price per pure gram of cocaine (from $97 to $183). Simultaneously, average cocaine purity has fallen by nearly a third (32 percent). The result is dwindling supplies on the street and cocaine that is more expensive to buy and of lower quality.
As reported in the 2009 National Drug Threat Assessment of the National Drug Intelligence Center, “counterdrug agencies have made measurable progress against cocaine production, transportation, and distribution, contributing to a reduction in cocaine availability in the United States.” Positive tests for cocaine use among adults, as indicated by results of workplace drug tests nationwide, fell 38 percent from June 2006 through June 2008. Among youth, MTF finds a 15 percent reduction in past-year use of cocaine from 2007–2008.
Further, youth perceptions of cocaine availability, as measured by MTF, corroborate the latest price and purity data, with high school sophomores and seniors reporting cocaine was harder to obtain in 2008 than in 2007.
Director Walters said, “President Bush insisted on a balanced effort against demand and supply. Thousands of people joined that effort—from Colombia and Mexico to Main Street U.S.A. and they produced historic progress. The use of drugs has dropped broadly, steeply, and rapidly, while the supply of these poisons has been cut dramatically. Taken together, this impact is historically unprecedented.”
Despite progress in several key areas, the new data reinforce the importance of committing adequate resources to education and awareness efforts, particularly those directed at young people. The MTF Study notes a softening of youth anti-drug attitudes and beliefs (widely believed to be precursors of behavior) related to perceptions of harmfulness of marijuana and social disapproval of marijuana use. These countertrends occurred in the context of drastic cuts to the Nation's largest youth drug education and prevention initiative, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. Over the last nine years, Congress has slashed resources to this vital program by 68 percent, from $185 million in FY99 to $60 million in FY08.
Director Walters said, “Not only has President Bush made the drug problem much smaller than he found it, he also built powerful new prevention, treatment, and supply reduction structures that offer a roadmap for the next Administration to make even more dramatic progress.”
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