The White House

Office of the National Drug Control Policy

New Data Show Cocaine Market Under Significant Stress

Number of Americans Using Cocaine Declining; Overall Production of Andean Cocaine Down By One-Third Since 2001; Seizures of Cocaine Down Along Southwest Border

Washington, D.C. — Today, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, released new data indicating significant progress in disrupting the international market for cocaine and highlighted the Obama Administration’s renewed national effort to reduce the demand for cocaine in the United States.

According to new U.S. Government estimates conducted annually, the potential production capacity for pure cocaine in Colombia has declined for yet another year, from 280 metric tons in 2008 to 270 metric tons in 2009 (four percent). This latest decline builds upon the already sharp decrease in the amount of pure cocaine produced in Colombia over the past several years – from an estimated 700 metric tons potential cocaine production in 2001 to only 270 metric tons in 2009 – a 61 percent drop. In 2009, Colombia eradicated (both manually and through aerial spray) more than 160,000 hectares of coca, reducing the productivity of coca fields. Cocaine in the United States is overwhelmingly sourced to Colombian production, which accounts for approximately 95 percent of the U.S. market.

Additionally, there has not been a “balloon effect” compensatory increase in the overall Andean region resulting from the reductions in Colombia. The potential production of pure cocaine throughout the Andes has declined by 35 percent over the past several years, from 1055 metric tons in 2001 to 690 metric tons in 2009. Estimates for potential production of pure cocaine between 2008 and 2009 in Peru rose somewhat (to 225 metric tons), while Bolivian potential production remained essentially stable at 195 metric tons. The primary sources of demand and destinations for cocaine from Peru and Bolivia appear to be Europe and other foreign markets.

Unprecedented decreases in the U.S. supply of cocaine are occurring at the same time use of the drug in the U.S. is declining. Despite overall increases in the use of other drugs, data from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health – the largest U.S. survey on drug use - show the number of Americans aged 12 and older who are current users of cocaine has dropped by 21 percent since 2007, from an estimated 2.1 million users in 2007 to an estimated 1.6 million users in 2009. In particular, there has also been a 19 percent decline in current use of cocaine among 18-25 year olds – the segment of the population with the highest rates of use – during the same period of time.

“As someone who has spent over thirty years in law enforcement, I have seen first-hand the toll that cocaine use and trafficking have had, and continue to have. Their destructive effects have damaged our international partners as well as our local communities,” said Kerlikowske. “Although a wide array of data now confirm the decline in use and availability of cocaine in the United States, there are still far too many Americans using drugs that drive violence and instability in other nations. That is why the Obama Administration is working to restore balance to our drug control efforts by emphasizing demand reduction at the same time we are supporting our international allies in their efforts to curb the supply of these drugs.”

“These production and purity trends are the result of significant progress DEA and our international law enforcement partners have made globally,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Though more work remains to continue disrupting the international drug market and to reduce demand in the United States, these numbers are a clear sign that our efforts are paying off. Cartels and trafficking networks are on the run, our global partners are united, and demand for cocaine in the U.S. is decreasing.”

Other key figures point to significant disruptions in the domestic cocaine market:

  • The purity of bulk cocaine shipments headed directly to, or seized in, the United States has declined by 14 percent, from 85 percent in the first quarter of 2006 to 73 percent in the second quarter of 2010, indicating that more cocaine is being diluted with adulterants before reaching the United States. This is accompanied by an even steeper decline in the retail purity of powder cocaine purchased in the United States during this time. (DEA)
  • The Nation’s largest survey of drug use among youth shows that while the use of other drugs among youth is increasing, there has been a 28 percent decline in the number of 10th graders who used cocaine in the past year and a 36 percent decline in cocaine use among high school seniors who used cocaine in the past year between 2004 and 2009. (2009 Monitoring the Future Survey)
  • There has been a 60 percent drop in the rate of people testing positive for cocaine in the workplace between 2006 and 2009, from 72 to 29 out of every 10,000 workers tested. (Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index)
  • Drug-tests of arrestees in jail facilities showed significant declines in cocaine positives in 8 of 10 tested cities in 2009, compared to those tested in 2007 or 2008. (Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program)
  • At a time when seizures of methamphetamine, heroin, and marijuana are increasing, seizures of cocaine along the Southwest border have fallen by one third (32 percent), from 28,156 kilograms in 2006 to 19,262 kilograms in 2009. (National Seizure System, EPIC, 11/28/10)

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is coordinating an unprecedented government-wide public health approach to reduce drug use and its consequences in the United States. This effort includes increasing funding for drug prevention by $203 million and treatment programs by $137 million, placing a heavier emphasis on early intervention programs in health settings, aligning criminal justice policies and public health systems to divert non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of jail, funding scientific research on drug use, and expanding access to substance abuse treatment. ONDCP has also revamped the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign to include a broader focus on substances most often abused by teens, including prescription drugs, marijuana, and alcohol, and partnering with communities to reach at-risk youth populations in rural, suburban, and urban communities.