14. Working estimates of the social costs per gram and per user for cannabis, cocaine, opiates and amphetamines

This work represents a first step in estimating the different social costs associated with different illicit drugs. More specifically, the report sets out in detail the annual costs in Australia (circa 2004) associated with opiates, amphetamines, cocaine, and other illicit drugs separately across two major classes of social costs: health and crime. The cost estimates are further broken down between dependent users and non-dependent users. These are then combined with prevalence and consumption to generate estimates of the:

  1. social costs per drug user by drug type; and
  2. social costs per kilogram (or gram) for each drug type.

The work is important because, by generating estimates such as these, we can begin to evaluate different policy responses in terms of cost savings to the community. Being able to specify the social costs per gram and per user for the main classes of illicit drugs means that we can then evaluate policy responses – such as the potential cost savings of reducing the supply of a specific drug by X kilograms; or the cost savings of decreasing the number of dependent drug users by Y.