The U.S. opioid crisis has been making headlines again this week after pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson was fined $572 for fuelling the epidemic in Oklahoma in a historic ruling. Last year, drug overdoses claimed more than 68,000 American lives and 47,000 of those deaths involved an opioid. Even though heroin, prescription opioids and synthetic opioids like fentanyl are receiving most of the attention, deaths from other drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine are inreasing. A new report from the RAND Corporation has shed light on just how many people use illicit drugs across America as well as how much they pay for them.
In 2016 alone, people in the U.S. spent an estimated $146 billion on cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine. Adding RAND's figures together from 2006 to 2016 would mean total spending on illegal drugs over the course of the decade was nearly $1.5 trillion. Out of all four drugs in 2016, users spent the most on illicit marijuana - $52 billion. The market for the illegal green stuff is around the size of the cocaine and methamphetamine markets combined. Heroin has the second highest financial outlay ($43 billon) followed by methamphetamine ($27 billion) and cocaine ($24 billion).