Heroin Purchasing Is Income and Price Sensitive

Juliette Roddy, Caren L. Steinmiller, Mark K. Greenwald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Semi-structured interviews were used to assess behavioral economic drug demand in heroin dependent research volunteers. Findings on drug price, competing purchases, and past 30-day income and consumption, established in a previous study, are replicated. We extended these findings by having participants indicate whether hypothetical environmental changes would alter heroin purchasing. Participants (n = 109) reported they would significantly (p < .005) decrease heroin daily purchasing amounts (DPA) from past 30-day levels (M = $60/day) if: (a) they encountered a 33% decrease in income (DPA = $34), (b) family/friends no longer paid their living expenses (DPA = $32), or (c) they faced four-fold greater likelihood of police arrest at their purchasing location (DPA = $42). Participants in higher income quartiles (who purchase more heroin) show greater DPA reductions (but would still buy more heroin) than those in lower income quartiles. For participants receiving government aid (n = 31), heroin purchasing would decrease if those subsidies were eliminated (DPA = $28). Compared to participants whose urine tested negative for cocaine (n = 31), cocaine-positive subjects (n = 32) reported more efficient heroin purchasing, that is, they live closer to their primary dealer; are more likely to have heroin delivered or walk to obtain it (and less likely to ride the bus), thus reducing purchasing time (52 vs. 31 min, respectively); and purchase more heroin per episode. These simulation results have treatment and policy implications: Daily heroin users' purchasing repertoire is very cost-effective, more so for those also using cocaine, and only potent environmental changes (income reductions or increased legal sanctions) may impact this behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-364
Number of pages7
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral economics
  • Detroit
  • Heroin
  • Injection
  • Opioids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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