Who gets the money from drugs?

Strap on your seatbelts, cause there’s about to be a lot of measurements and equations coming your way. We know you thought you left maths behind at GCSE, but we’re gonna need you to revisit that trauma. The good news is, we’re mixing it with something interesting - drugs. The drug trade (both legal and illegal) are worth a hefty sum of money, so we thought we’d sit down and crunch the numbers.

A young woman is sitting on a brick wall, on top of a bench. She is thinking about getting money from drugs. This is a full-body image.

So you’ve bought a gram. Or an ounce. Or a couple of pills for you and your mates. You’ve met your dealer, handed over some cash, and that’s your night out sorted. But it can get difficult to track who is getting the money from drugs and how much they are getting. All we can say for sure is that your cash isn’t going to legitimate business men with fancy suits, but you already knew that. 

How does getting money from drugs work? 

Selling drugs works just like any other market. It’s all down to supply and demand: if demand goes up because there’s a shortage in supply, then drug prices go up as well. If there’s loads of a particular drug floating about, it gets cheaper. Simple, right?

Drugs are illegal and getting them into this country takes some effort, to say the least. The more difficult it is to get that drug, the more it’s going to cost you. So if your upper/downer of choice is made in a foreign country, it’ll be pricier since you’ve also, indirectly, gotta pay all the traffickers who worked tirelessly to get it to you.

To find out more info on how drugs get into the country, read our article.

Drug prices of cocaine 

Let’s dive in the deep end shall we. Coke is notoriously expensive– especially considering you’re likely to be snorting only 30% cocaine and 70 % caffeine pills and talcum powder. The coca plant can only grow in South America, therefore the only way to get it up the noses of Europeans is to smuggle it in. 

This may account for some of the hefty price tags, but as Tom Feiling, author of The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over the World explains, there’s a ridiculously high mark-up as well. He says: “A British cocaine wholesaler spoke to a Home Office prison survey of cocaine importers. Prior to his arrest, he was buying and selling 60kg of cocaine a week. He would buy from Colombian suppliers in Spain for £18,000 a kilo, and sell it in the United Kingdom for £22,000 a kilo. Once broken down into grams for retail sale, that kilo would most likely have netted him £50,000.”

But, how much does this mark-up affect you and how much do you pay? Put it this way: when you buy coffee, the difference in price between the beans picked off the plant and the blend sold in your local supermarket is 223%. Sound steep? The difference in price between a gram of cocaine fresh out of a Colombian factory and that gram you bought last Friday night is 15,800%! Still worth it for some dancing on tabletops? 

What affects the price of heroin?  

Now that we’ve dealt with coke, it’s time to move onto it’s partner-in-crime, heroin. Most of the world’s heroin – over 90% – is produced in Afghanistan. Its production is controlled by the Taliban and other organised crime gangs who use their monopoly of the market to their own advantage.

This makes opiates more expensive, and there’s still the smuggling process to up the price. Most of the UK’s heroin is smuggled to us through Pakistan. In this deal, every trafficker gets a cut for the part they play in getting it here. This process has a huge effect on your wallet. Figures from UN World Drug Report 2010 show a kilo of heroin is worth $2,400 in Afghanistan, but that same kilo is worth $44,300 once it reaches the UK. This trend has continued till today, with the price of Heroin in Ireland being the second highest across Europe as of 2019. 

Is home-grown cannabis cheaper? 

If a drug doesn’t need to be sneaked into the UK via cargo ship, dodgy postal package or up a drug mule’s arse, you would assume it’s going to be cheaper. Unfortunately, like with most things in life,  it’s not that simple.

Drug suppliers and dealers are always looking for ways to make more money. Likelihood is, taking drugs which don’t need importing doesn’t necessarily drop the price; instead it can affect the type of drug you are getting.

According to the UN, cannabis is increasingly being grown indoors so the plant can prosper despite crappy English weather. This method also produces several high-yield harvests a year. This means that an increasing amount of the weed you are smoking is home-grown. But because factory-farmed cannabis is much more potent, dealers can charge a higher-price for this new super-skunk. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to deal with drug dealers safely and make sure you’re not getting scammed. Lucky for you, if you click here you can do just that. 

Where’s all the MDMA gone? 

MDMA can be produced pretty cheaply with the right scientific know-how, instruments, and combo of chemicals. This means that ecstasy tablets and pills have always been relatively affordable. But these days getting your hands on real MDMA is increasingly difficult. The EU has got much stricter on regulating the chemicals used to produce it. As a result, ecstasy factories are struggling.

This MDMA drought hasn’t made the pills more expensive. Instead, the pills look like and cost the same as ecstasy, but they don’t actually contain MDMA. If they do, it’s in small traces. 

This has caused MDMA-appreciators to seek alternatives of their beloved E. Former legal high mephedrone produces similar effects to ecstasy and temporarily filled the gap until it was made

Next Steps

  • FRANK offers friendly, confidential advice on all things drugs-related. Call now on 0300 123 6600
  • Release offers free and confidential advice on everything to do with drugs and drugs law. 0845 4500 215
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


drug dealing

By Holly Thompson

Updated on 04-Sep-2021