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Samantha Felix Samantha Felix

Graphic: How Americans Spend $100 Billion a Year on Illegal Drugs

New figures show how US cocaine, meth, heroin and marijuana use fluctuated between 2000 and 2010.

2 Substance

Americans are spending over $100 billion a year on illegal drugs, according to a new study prepared by the RAND Corporation for the US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). This chart below shows how much Americans reportedly spent on cocaine (including crack), heroin, meth and marijuana between 2000 and 2010.

While heroin spending remained roughly constant, cocaine purchases, having been by far the largest category in 2000, fell nearly 50% over the decade. Marijuana* spending, on the other hand, increased by over 40% in that period. Of course, these numbers are necessarily inexact estimates—“an inevitable consequence,” the authors note, “of trying to measure sales of something sold in hidden markets or consumption behavior that is both illegal and dominated by a relatively small number of heavy users.” But as John Tozzi at Bloomberg Businessweek writes of the $109 spent in 2010:

To put that number in perspective: It’s more than we spend at furniture stores ($90 billion) or electronics and appliance retailers ($101 billion) annually, according to U.S. Census data. It’s more than one-fifth of what we spend eating out each year, and it dwarfs the $21 billion we drop at bars.


(Important—the report’s authors note: “The 2000–2003 marijuana estimates are not perfectly comparable to the later years because of changes in survey questions and methods.”)