Bulletin no. 06: Illicit drugs in Australia: What do we know about the role of price?


There has been an increasing awareness of the importance of using price information to understand illicit drug markets. Internationally, researchers have found relationships between illicit drug prices and other market characteristics such as the numbers of drug users, the proportion of arrestees testing positive to drugs and the number of drug-related emergency department incidents.

This work aimed to assess whether the Australian heroin market shares the same basic characteristics (e.g. real prices falling over time, significant price variability) as other illicit drug markets where more price analysis has been done; and begin to explore the relationship between price and harm. It is hard to measure how much heroin is being consumed with any precision, making it extremely difficult to understand the relationship between drug use and the harmful consequences that result from use. On the other hand other market characteristics, such as price, can be better measured. If there are relationships between price (as an indirect measure of consumption) and harms, we can use price (and potentially other market data) to assess harms and policy responses.