The Evolution of Drug Initiation: From Social Networks to Public Markets

by Jonathan P. Caulkins

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This paper seeks to integrate two competing notions of what drives initiation into illicit drug use, the so-called "snowball model" of sellers recruiting new customers and the "social contagion" model of current users recruiting friends into drug use. The model hypothesizes that both occur, but in distinct phases of the drug epidemic. The data are insufficient to validate the model, but inasmuch as the model is valid the principal policy conclusion is that interventions that reduce the "snowball effect" in Phase I may substantially reduce consumption in Phase II and overall.

Originally published in: Optimization, Dynamics, and Economic Analysis--Essays in Honor of Gustav Feichtinger, pp. 353-367.

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