The report was submitted today to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy -- the stats compiled by researchers at the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.
"Having credible estimates of the number of heavy drug users and how much they spend is critical for evaluating policies, making decisions about treatment funding and understanding the drug revenues going to criminal organizations," Beau Kilmer, the study's lead author and co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, said in a recent news release. "This work synthesizes information from many sources to present the best estimates to date for illicit drug consumption and spending in the United States."
The report relies on a variety of surveys and public records, most of it collected between 2006 and 2010. Specifically, cocaine usage estimates were derived from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program, or ADAM, while the National Survey on Drug Use and Health -- which questions nearly 70,000 Americans every year -- was used to confirm marijuana's rising popularity.
Since the report used studies and surveys through only 2010, the new analysis fails to draw any conclusions about the recent effects of marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado. Nor does it confirm reports of recent spikes in heroin use around the country.
Researchers say doing this kind of analysis could get more difficult in the coming years, as the valuable ADAM program was defunded by the federal government last year.
“The ADAM program provided unique insights about those who abused hard drugs and how much they spent on these substances,” said Jonathan Caulkins, co-author of the new study public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University. “It's a tragedy that 2013 was the last year for ADAM. It is such an important data system for understanding drug problems.”
And though the particular stocks of certain drugs continue to rise and fall, the overall market for illicit substances remains huge. In 2010, Americans shelled out more than $109 billion for marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin.