Cheap High: Cocaine Prices Still Falling

Drug costs less today than ever, a study says.

ByABC News
April 19, 2009, 6:29 PM

April 20, 2009— -- Cocaine is as cheap as ever, according to a new analysis of government data by a Washington, D.C. think tank.

The findings appear to contradict claims by U.S. law enforcement officials that the drug has become more expensive. "[Over] the last two years there's been a sustained increase on the price of cocaine," said Drug Enforcement Administration operations chief Tom Harrigan in a recent interview with ABC News. Harrigan credited efforts by the United States, Mexico and local U.S. governments.

But the retail price for cocaine in 2007, the most recent year studied, was less than half what it was in 1984, when Jay McInerney's novel of a coke-addled Manhattanite, "Bright Lights, Big City," was first published, according to the report by the policy group Washington Office on Latin America, which cited a newly-released analysis by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The cocaine market portrayed by the report contrasts with boasts made by the Drug Enforcement Administration last year that cocaine prices were soaring in part due government counterdrug efforts, experts say.

"It's roughly in line with the trend we see with most other illegal drugs, and undermines the government's claim they're making it more difficult to purchase" such substances, said journalist Ryan Grim, whose book on American drug policy, "This is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America," publishes in June.

The DEA did not respond with comment for this story.

Cocaine prices do spike from time to time, said John Walsh, the drug policy expert with the D.C.-based Washington Office on Latin America who authored the study. But he noted the long-term trend shows prices steadily declining.