The price of drugs usually reflects either the availability and/or demand for that particular drug. In the UK recently the government has been criticised for failing to stem drug imports after research showed that the country is awash with cheap drugs, with a line of cocaine now reportedly costing less than a cappuccino.

In the UK the price of ecstasy, heroin, crack and cocaine tumbled to a record low during 2004, as greater quantities appeared on the market. Despite policing efforts, the price of ecstasy has plummeted by 70 percent over the last decade to an average of £3.50 a pill, according to figures compiled by the Independent Drugs Monitoring Unit.

During last year the cost of a rock of crack fell by more than a fifth to £10, its largest annual fall since the drug reached Britain during the 1980s. Rocks, each about the size of a white, waxy pea, are effectively cocaine in smokeable form and typically give users one or two hits. Increasingly, cocaine users are paying under £40 for a gram of their drug of choice.

When these figures were released, newspapers reported that users could get up to 20 lines from one gram -“ a story that most coke users would find hard to believe. It would appear that this is where they were able to get the cappuccino comparison from but, regardless, cocaine is currently pretty cheap in the UK.

Interestingly, the trend is very different here. Cocaine has always been a difficult drug to come by in Australia. In fact, NSW is often the only state where there is significant cocaine use reported. When it is available, it is usually expensive (a minimum of $200 per gram) and not of particularly high quality.

Recently there has been a very interesting development in the cocaine market: unlike other drugs that have consistently dropped in price, cocaine prices have risen steeply. People are now paying anywhere from $300 and $450 per gram.

You would think that this would have a negative impact upon the market, forcing users to move away from cocaine and onto cheaper alternatives. However, this does not appear to be the case mainly due to the fact that the quality of the drug appears to have risen sharply.

This phenomenon has not been explored fully as yet. We do not have a great deal of data on the current purity of street cocaine but we do know that there are more people who are willing to pay much higher prices for what they believe is a much purer drug.

If it is true we need to be sure that cocaine users are educated about the risks of using a more pure substance. Overdose is always a possibility and we have seen deaths in Sydney even in those people who choose to snort the drug. With an increase in purity comes an increase in the risks.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?

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