In News-Report Shines Light on Nation’s Increase in Illegal Drug Spending and Chronic Drug Users.
Just in time for September’s designation as “National Recovery Month,” a recently released report suggests that there will be an increased need for recovery services in the years ahead. While the Rand Corporation report—What America’s Users Spend on Illegal Drugs, 2006-2016—focuses primarily on how much American’s pay for illegal drugs, it shines a bright light on illegal drug usage patterns, too.
The bottom line is that more Americans seem to be using drugs and are spending more money to purchase illicit drugs.
While 2006 marked a high water year for drug spending, with purchases of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine coming in at a combined $145 billion, the subsequent seven years saw lower annual spending that fluctuated in the $122-$129 billion range. However, spending climbed again in 2014 and reached $146 billion in 2016.
As noted by the report’s authors, this high level of spending makes illegal drug use spending almost on par with the value of the U.S. alcohol industry. The good news in the report is that cocaine spending dropped by about 60% between 2006 and 2013, before leveling off, while the number of chronic users declined by almost 40%, before similarly leveling off.
Unfortunately, this one shred of good news in the report is far overshadowed by all the bad news. In particular, that chronic heroin use increased more than 40 percent between 2006 and 2016, with an estimated 2.3 million Americans believed to be chronic users in that latter year. The authors suggest that introduction of fentanyl into the heroin market might be partly to blame for the increase, but whatever the case, this also poses an increased risk of addiction.
The increase in methamphetamine usage also represents a significant problem.
However, as noted by the report’s lead author, the extent of the methamphetamine problem is currently overshadowed by the country’s opioid crisis. The report estimates that there might be at least 3.2 million meth users as of 2016, a significant increase from the 2.2 million users estimated in 2006, and a number that surpasses those of both chronic heroin or cocaine users.
There’s plenty of other data to consider in the report, such as marijuana usage and spending have also been showing significant expansion. Overall, the report helps provide a clearer picture of the country’s drug crisis beyond the current focus on the opioid epidemic. And given the data, policymakers and addiction treatment specialists obviously need to maintain their attention on all illegal drugs.
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