Previous research has indicated that non-dependent polydrug users are willing to pay more money to buy good quality drugs as their income increased. This study sought to examine whether altering the perceived quality of controlled drugs would affect drug purchases if the monetary price remained fixed. A random sample of 80 polydrug users were recruited. All participants were administered an anonymous questionnaire consisting of the Drug Abuse Screening Test for Adolescents (DAST-A), the Severity of Dependence Scale for cannabis (SDS), the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), and questions about their drug use. Participants then completed a simulation of controlled drug purchases where the price of alcohol, amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, and ecstasy remained the same but their perceived quality changed (i.e. unit price increased as the perceived quality decreased). The demand for alcohol was quality inelastic and alcohol quality had no effects on the purchase of any other controlled drug. Demand for cannabis was quality elastic and alcohol substituted for cannabis as its unit price increased. Demand for cocaine was quality elastic and alcohol, cannabis, and ecstasy substituted for cocaine as its unit price increased. Demand for ecstasy was quality elastic and alcohol and cocaine both substituted for ecstasy as its unit price increased. These results suggest that perceived quality influences the demand for controlled drugs and that monitoring the perceived quality of controlled drugs may provide a warning of potential public health problems in the near future.
Title: The effects of perceived quality on the behavioural economics of alcohol, amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, and ecstasy purchases
Authors: Jon C. Cole, Andrew J. Goudie, Matt Field, Anne-Claire Loverseed, Sarah Charlton, Harry R. Sumnall
Source: Drug and Alcohol Dependence