The relationship between price, purity and population-level drug-related harm

Date Commenced:
Expected Date of Completion:
Project Supporters:

Australian Institute of Criminology

Project Members: 
Project Main Description: 

Analyses of drug markets over many years have shown that the price and purity of illicit substances can have a key role in shaping drug consumption, and in turn drug-related harm. For example, prior international research has shown that decreases in the price of pure heroin can be associated with increased emergency room presentations or heroinrelated overdose hospital admissions (see for example, Caulkins, 2001; Unick et al. 2014). However, it remains unknown to what extent these relationships vary by time, geography/place and drug class. Clarifying the relationship between price, purity and drug-related harm is important for informing targeted law enforcement and harm minimisation strategies.

Project Collaborators: External: 

Professor Alison Ritter
Drug Policy Modelling Program, Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney


This project will conduct a rapid review of existing research that has examined the relationship between price, purity and drug-related harm. The specific aims of the project are:

  • To examine the relationship between price, purity and six population-level drug-related harms (ambulance call outs, emergency room presentations, hospital admissions, overdose, property crime and violent crime).
  • To identify any differences in the relationship between price, purity and harm across three drug types: heroin, cocaine and meth/amphetamine.
  • To identify factors that may moderate relationships (e.g. region or drug form). 
Project Research Area: 
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