Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Ojmarrh Mitchell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Bryanna Fox, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard K. Moule, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wesley G. Jennings, Ph.D.


deterrence theory, economic price elasticity of demand perspective, heroin possession/sale arrests, opium production/eradication, rational choice theory


American policy makers primarily embrace a deterrent-based policing agenda to curb illicit drug trafficking and use that relies on the principles of the economic price elasticity of demand (Boynum & Reuter, 2005). This counter-drug platform includes three fundamental programs: arresting offenders, seizing illicit drugs, and eradicating horticultural sources of illicit drugs (U.S. DEA, 2015). One of the main goals of these programs is to deter illegal trafficking and use by increasing the price of illicit substances so they are no longer attractive to consumers. The United States has weathered various drug use epidemics during its history, and currently it is facing a heroin and opioid epidemic (Dean, 2017).

The present multi-dimensional study is guided by three broad goals: to assess the dynamics of illicit drug pricing and the economic price elasticity of demand perspective; to evaluate whether drug trafficking organizations respond to theoretically deterrence based counter-drug law enforcement efforts; and to assess why law enforcement activities are (or are not) effective in controlling illegal drug markets. To accomplish these three broad goals, four separate yet linked focal points comprised of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods evaluations of official data are examined.

The findings in the study call into question the current American counter-drug law enforcement agenda being used to address the ongoing heroin epidemic. Furthermore, the results shine light on various shortcomings in overall U.S. counter-drug policy. Finally, the study calls for a new approach to address illicit drug trafficking and use in the U.S.