The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Mass of US Heroin Consumption

search icon
Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Statistics. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). US Department of Justice. "Analyzed Drug Removal:
2000 534.9 kg
1999 396.9 kg
1998 370.7 kg
1997 342.3 kg
… 1998 heroin seizure: Mexico 17%, South America 65%, Southeast Asia 14%, and Southwest Asia 4%."
342.3–1154 kg
Heroin Frequently Asked Questions. version 1.0. The Vaults of Erowid. October 2000. "A sufficient starting does for most users on their first experience would be between 5-20 mg injected, or 20-30 mg smoked." [see below]
Heroin Consumption in the US. National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC). February 2000. "An estimate of 50 mg of pure heroin a day was used as a realistic national average. The most recent estimate of the domestic hard-core addict population is 980,000. The Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), which provides information on the demographic and substance abuse in 1996, 83.0% used daily, 4.0% used between three and six times a week, 1.8% used between one and two times a week, 2.2% used between one and three times a month, and 9.0% did not use during the month prior to their admission. [(0.05 g·0.001 kg/g)·(980,000 addicts)·(365 days)·(83%) = 15,000 kg]" 15,000 kg

Heroin consumption affects hundred thousands of Americans today. The current addict population in the United States is estimated in a range between 750,000 and 1,000,000. Shown from a 1999 study sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the most recent estimate of the domestic hard-core user population is 980,000.

Heroin is considered an opiate, a substance isolated from the opium plant. Morphine is also a separate substance isolated from opium. In 1898, the Bayer Company of Germany developed heroin for the first time when they mixed morphine with 2 moles of acetic anhydride. Heroin is a white and sometimes brownish odorless compound. It's composed of 21 carbon atoms, 23 hydrogen atoms, 1 nitrogen atom, and 5 oxygen atoms (C21H23NO5) with a molar mass of 369.42 grams.

Addicts fluctuate their drug use depending on the time of the day or week; which is why it is quite difficult to estimate the yearly consumption. The amount of a drug needed to provide the desired effect will differ for each person depending on body weight, metabolism, tolerance, and purity of the drug. A dose for injecting heroin would be from 5 to 20 mg, 20 to 30 mg smoked, or 60 mg eaten. Heroin addicts generally use the drug 2 to 4 times a day. The Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) provides information on the demographic and substance abuse characteristics of those admitted to drug treatment programs.

In 1996, of the people in treatment programs for heroin abuse:

An estimate shows that an addict usually spends about $50 for the addictive drug daily. On average, a user takes about 50 mg (0.05 g) of pure heroin a day. However, the amount of 50 mg a day may be less for new users and more for hard-core users since they developed a tolerance for the drug and must take higher doses more frequently.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) indicated that drug users spend about $90 billion dollars yearly while 8 billion dollars is used on yearly drug enforcement. DEA Domestic Analyzed Drug Removal statistics shows:

Year Drug Removal (kg)
2000 534.9
1999 396.9
1998 370.7
1997 342.3

This information represents drug removals that were analyzed in a DEA laboratory and is the net weight after analysis.

Most of the heroin found in the US is smuggled in from countries such as Mexico, South America, and Asia.

Source of heroin
seized in the US
Mexico 17%
South America 65%
Southeast Asia 14%
Southwest Asia 4%

Using data such as the average amount of heroin used daily, the number of people who are heroin addicts in the US, and the percentage of the people who use it daily, the consumption of heroin was found to be about 15,000 kg in one year. Since only 534.9 kg of heroin was seized by the DEA in 2000, an estimate of 5 to 10% is actually seized; which concludes that about 95% of heroin is easily smuggled into the US.

Danielle Nguyen -- 2001