The World's Highest (and Lowest) Cocaine Prices

Where do you think Sydney, Australia lands?

Cocaine remains the world's priciest party drug, according to the just-released 2015 Global Drug Survey, but it's much more expensive in some places than others. The survey, which consists of interviews with 100,000 people worldwide and bills itself as "the world's most comprehensive survey of drug use," shows where you're going to pay out the nose for that stuff that goes up your nose and where you can get it cheaply.

Let's get the cheapest country out of the way first. Outside of the three coca-producing countries of the Andes (Bolivia, Columbia, Peru), the world's cheapest cocaine, at a little over $10 a gram, is in Brazil. That makes sense. Brazil borders all three of those countries and is also a key transshipment route for marching powder headed to markets across the Atlantic.

And although the survey doesn't mention the producing countries, this writer can report that it's even cheaper there. Eight-balls (3.5 grams) of cocaine were going for about $14 (less than $5 a gram) at beachfront hotels in the Colombian Caribbean resort city of Cartagena just a few short years ago, and there is little reason to think that anything has changed.

It's a different story elsewhere. Here are the world's most expensive countries for cocaine, grouped into tiers:

1.      Outrageously Expensive—Australia and New Zealand. Cocaine in these two countries costs more than 20 times what it does in Brazil, with Australia having the world's highest price at $235 a gram and New Zealand close behind at $215 a gram. Why so high there? Both countries are essentially islands in the remote South Pacific, with strong border controls. They are also relatively small markets, making them of less interest to cocaine trafficking organizations.

2.      Quite Expensive—Switzerland, Austria, Ireland. In all three countries, the price of a gram is between $90 and $100

3.      Above Average Expensive—Denmark, France, Germany, the United Kingdom. These European countries all come in at between $80 and $85 a gram, just above the global average price of $78.

4.      Not So Expensive—the United States, Canada, Spain, and Belgium. The US comes in at $62 a gram, while the other countries are at around $60.

5.      European Cocaine Bargains—Portugal and the Netherlands. You can pick up a gram for $53 in the Netherlands, $55 in Portugal. Both countries have liberal drug laws, but perhaps more importantly, both countries are portals for the trans-Atlantic trade.

At any price, cocaine use is relatively low compared to other drugs. Of the 100,000 people surveyed, 15-20,000 said they had used it in the last year, and 80% of them had used in less than 10 times in that period. Only 1% of respondents had used it more than 100 times in the past year.

"If you look at the sampling among cannabis users, many had used over 100 times in the past year, and for alcohol, a lot more were using weekly," survey founder and addiction psychiatrist Adam Winstock noted. "It's a good thing that coke is really expensive. It helps lowers indulgence," he told CNBC


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Phillip Smith has been a drug policy journalist for the past two decades. Smith is currently a senior writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute