By Jon Dougherty
(NationalSentinel) A new study by the non-partisan RAND Corporation helps explain why it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to ever stop the illicit drug trade: It’s worth tens of billions of dollars per year.
Researchers at the think tank wrote in their report that illegal narcotics generate some $150 billion annually, or as much as the amusement and gambling industry generated in 2016.
The exhaustive analysis of drug use and spending data contained in the reportÂ indicates thatÂ there are aboutÂ 30 million chronic drug users in the U.S. alone as ofÂ 2016, withÂ major increases in the number of methamphetamine, marijuana, and heroin users. The estimated revenue from all of this drug use is $150 billion a year, researchers note in the report.
TheÂ Washington Free Beacon adds:
The estimates are based primarily on data from theÂ Arrestee Drug Abuse MonitoringÂ (ADAM) program, an annual survey that tracked drug use behaviors among male arrestees between 2007 and 2013.
The RAND team then applied data from other surveys and estimates of drug useâ€”including overdose death figures and rates of drug seizure among policeâ€”to bootstrap the national number of chronic users and the amount they annually spend on drugs.
RAND notes that analyzing the illicit drug market is extremely difficult, mostly because buyers and sellers have an interest in remaining secretive. As such, the report’s estimates contain very large confidence intervals, with certainty falling off after 2013.
“In other words, they are just a guess at magnitude, albeit the most certain guess possible given the constraints of data,” theÂ Free Beacon reported.
The Trump administration has made curbing illicit drug use, especially opioids use, a major policy objective. Opioid abuse has reached epidemic levels and kills tens of thousands of Americans each year.
In fact, Americans are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than they are a motor vehicle accident,Â NPR reported in January.
“The nation’s opioid crisis is fueling the Council’s grim probabilities, and that crisis is worsening with an influx of illicit fentanyl,” the National Safety Council noted.
Fentanyl is now the drug most often responsible for drug overdose deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionÂ reportedÂ in December.
As for illicit drugs, estimates vary regarding what Mexico-based cartels earn from drug smuggling every year, but it is in the billions of dollars.
The U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime inÂ a 2011 report said: â€œAccording to estimates collected for a study on US-Mexico Security Cooperation (2010), the Mexican Government estimated drug-related cash flows from the USA to Mexico atÂ some US $11 [billion]Â per year.â€
ReutersÂ reportedÂ in 2018 that â€œthe cash-rich cartels [are] believed by the Mexican government to generateÂ well over $21 billion each year.â€
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service inÂ a 2018 report noted that the Sinaloa cartel, until recently run by JoaquÃn â€œEl Chapoâ€ GuzmÃ¡n, â€œby some estimates … had grown to control 40%-60% of Mexicoâ€™s drug trade by 2012 and had annual earnings calculated to be as high as $3 billion.â€
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