Bulletin no. 08: The impact of heroin seizures (Economic back of the envelope calculations)


There are many things not known about the heroin market in Australia. Its illicit status and the relatively low numbers of participants give researchers and policy makers few opportunities to develop a precise understanding of its size, composition and dynamics. Singer (1971) demonstrated that, in such a situation, simple quantitative analysis can provides insights. In his analysis of the amount of crime committed by heroin addicts in New York City, Singer compared numbers against each other and used general knowledge to show that widely used figures had no basis in fact. The approach has also been used to develop plausible numbers where none exist.

One example where simple quantitative analysis can provide insights is in the area of the impact of heroin seizures on consumption. The purpose of this project was to establish the rate of heroin seizures relative to the overall size of the heroin market in Australia. In addition, it provided the opportunity to review various useful ‘numbers’ that will be used in Stage Two DPMP analyses.