At his White House news conference Thursday afternoon, President Trump lamented that “we're becoming a drug-infested nation. Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars.”
While the remark was ridiculed on Twitter, there's a fair amount of truth to it. Illicit drugs are often incredibly inexpensive, particularly per dose.
In 2015, for instance, the Baltimore Sun reported that “peewee” capsules of heroin were selling for about $6 per dose on one West Baltimore street corner. That's not much more than the price of a 12.6 ounce bar of Toblerone at Target, and probably less when you account for taxes (which drug dealers typically don't charge).
At the per-pill level, opiate painkillers can sometimes be even cheaper. According to StreetRX.com, a site run by epidemiological data firm Epidemico that crowdsources street price data on a variety of pharmaceuticals, individual pills of hydrocodone or oxycodone can be had for as little as $1 depending on which city you're in. That's roughly the price you'd expect to pay for a Snickers at your local convenience store.
On the topic of cheap drugs, let's not forget that alcohol is the drug of choice for many Americans and it's extremely cheap. One-dollar drink specials at your local restaurant or liquor store aren't that hard to come by.
The other implication of Trump's statement is that drugs are “becoming” cheaper. From a long-term perspective, this is also true. Federal data show that the price-per-gram of heroin, cocaine and meth have been dropping precipitously since the 1980s. The typical purity of those drugs, meanwhile, has increased over the same time period.
The notion that we're a “drug-infested” nation, meanwhile, is a bit of Trumpian hyperbole that's of a piece with Trump's harsh rhetoric on all things drug and crime. There is a kernel of truth here: Opioid overdose deaths have been on a relentless uphill climb since the late 1990s. In 2015, for instance, heroin overdose deaths surpassed gun homicides.