Public policy expert Mark Kleiman explains why President Trump’s claim that drugs are cheaper than candy bars isn’t so far off.
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Barro: It seems like, as the government has gotten more effective at restricting the supply of prescription opioids and driven up the price that that’s just driven people to heroin.
Kleiman: I agree with every word of that sentence except “just”.
Kleiman: I don’t think it’s an accident that the number of initiations peaked and went down. I think there are some people for whom those prescription opiates were a — an irreplaceable stepping stone to opioid use. They weren’t going to start sticking a needle in their arm, or buying a glassine baggy full of something from some guy in a dark alley. But when their friend said, “Oh, yeah I’ve got some Percodans here”, they’re happy to take one. And that was relatively safe, you know, unless you … lost control of your habit, taking one Percodan wasn’t going to give you any harm. So, and then people got strung out on the prescription drugs, and they traded down to heroin. Because, for, essentially unrelated reasons, over the same period, the price of heroin has been collapsing. When I got into this business years ago, a milligram of heroin on the street cost about $US2.50, and that was 1979 dollars. That number’s now 25 cents.
Barro: Wow. So that’s, so that’s not just a 90% collapse, ’cause the inflation, it’s something like a 97% collapse.
Kleiman: It’s, it’s absurd. And so, when, when Mr. Trump said that drugs now cost less than a candy bar, that’s not entirely untrue. Because 5 milligrams of heroin, if you’re a naive user, plenty for an afternoon. And that’s a dollar and a quarter’s worth.
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