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Slow Economy Hurting Banks, NYC Cocaine Dealers

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The flaccid economy is proving to be a drag on banks, retail sales (yes, parents are even cutting back on diaper purchases), and New York City cocaine dealers.

Last week, Chuck Bennett of the New York Post pointed out "another sign of the stalled economy -- New Yorkers are ditching their coke habits."

“It is sort of on a slight but steady downward trend,” Dr. Stephen Ross, director of NYU’s Langone Center of Excellence on Addiction, told Bennett. “I treat patients in private practice. Many cocaine addicts tell me stories they don’t have enough money to buy it anymore.”

Data obtained by the Post found that, in NYC, "Cocaine-related emergency-room admissions, overdoses and requests for rehab have declined since the economy started its 2008 decline," with 274 “'accidental' deaths in which cocaine was a factor," compared with 478 in 2006.

While the lower death rate is certainly a welcome development, what does this mean for the cocaine industry in a city Der Spiegel once called the Cocaine Capital of the World?

New York's drug dealers have been lamenting the sad state of the local economy for some time now.

In 2009, a coke dealer named "Eddie" told New York magazine's Adina Wise that, before the recession, he was "making deliveries every night of the week."

"Back then, I could afford to pick and choose," he said. "If I didn't know the address -- forget it. If I didn't like their accent -- forget it. On most nights, there were more people wanting than I could get to."

But, as one former customer said, "None of my friends mess with that anymore. It's like they grew up when the banks died."

And, just like that, the business changed.

"I see high-end guys hawking in parks now," a dealer named "Sammy" told Wise. "And these are guys that used to sell to Paris Hilton's crowd."

Even Miami, which has long been seen as inextricably linked to cocaine, is seeing usage drop off as budgets tighten.

“It’s not disappearing, but it’s definitely declining,” James N. Hall, Director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse at Nova Southeastern University, told the Miami Herald last month. “People are getting half of what they used to get -- and this is occurring in the middle of the economic downturn. Cocaine, the most expensive drug on a per-dose basis, is costing more."

An interesting theory about cocaine use during recessionary times comes from a post by John Flowers on the OpenSalon blog.

Writes Flowers:

Cocaine use (and to some extent drug use in general) among those 18 to 25 perfectly tracks the housing bubble. Check out this chart from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

About one in five adults 18-25 -- the people most likely to buy off the street -- loved him some kind of high in '07. And while coke usage (the green line) rose after the last recession, it dipped as housing fell from its peak in '05/'06.

It also seems that certain drugs weather a recession better than others. Look at the blue marijuana line. Usage is down from '02 but up slightly from '04. Much the same can be said for the black line which, essentially, tracks "pills" and their non-medicinal use. It's up overall since '02.

"Cocaine is different, though," points out Flowers. "Why? Possibly because coke is more a party drug, and the party, as we all well know, has come to a grinding halt."

Of course, they could do what Ireland's cocaine dealers did after they found their main source of income lacking.

From the Irish Times, February, 2010:

Some gangland figures hit by the recession, mainly due to the falling demand for cocaine from recreational users, have begun to smuggle cigarettes, though the diversification is still in its infancy.

“They’re looking to get into anything to make a few extra quid now that the cocaine market has fallen very flat,” said a law enforcement source.
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