Can price get the monkey off our back? A meta-analysis of illicit drug demand

Health Econ. 2014 Jan;23(1):55-68. doi: 10.1002/hec.2902. Epub 2013 Jan 10.


Because of the increased availability of price data over the past 15 years, several studies have estimated the demand for illicit drugs, providing 462 estimates of the price elasticity. Results from estimating several meta-regressions reveal that these price elasticity estimates are influenced by a number of study characteristics. For instance, the price elasticity differs across drugs, with its absolute value being smallest for marijuana, compared with cocaine and heroin. Furthermore, price elasticity estimates are sensitive to whether demand is modeled in the short-run or the long-run, measures of quantity and price, whether or not alcohol and other illicit drugs are included in the specification of demand, and the location of demand. However, a number of other factors, including the functional form of demand, several specification issues, the type of data and method used to estimate demand, and the quality of the publication outlet, have less influence on the price elasticity.

Keywords: D12; I18; illicit drug price elasticity; meta-analysis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / economics
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Decision Making
  • Drug Users / psychology*
  • Drug Users / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Heroin Dependence / economics
  • Heroin Dependence / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / economics*
  • Illicit Drugs / supply & distribution
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / economics
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology
  • Models, Economic
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Distribution
  • Substance-Related Disorders / economics*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology


  • Illicit Drugs