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April 16, 1973

The "British System" of Heroin Maintenance

Author Affiliations

White Plains, NY

JAMA. 1973;224(3):398-399. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03220160047019

To the Editor.—  The system of opium prohibition produces exorbitant prices, intolerable crime, and frustrating and expensive attempts at criminal control.In England, the pharmacy cost of heroin is 4 cents a grain. The street price in the United States is $30 to $90 a grain or about a 1,000-fold increase over the legal price.1(p28-29) This astronomical profit margin provides incentive for continued smuggling, and accounts for the fact that addicts commit 75% to 80% of the crime in New York City.2 It is estimated on the basis of 350,000 addicts (which is a conservative figure) that the annual cost of heroin purchases is about $1.5 billion. About $100 million is obtained by legal activity, about $500 million by prostitution, and about $900 million by property crimes. About $2.60 worth of property is required to yield $1 in cash. So the cost to victims of property crimes is