Home Entertainment Netflix shines a light on the market forces driving The Business of Drugs

Netflix shines a light on the market forces driving The Business of Drugs

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If there’s one thing people have a really hard time with, it’s big numbers. The more zeroes there are in the number, the more abstract they seem to become, and that’s true for every scientific and economic discipline. So, let’s throw out a few big numbers to get this ball rolling.

The gaming industry is estimated to generate a hair under $160 billion in revenue in 2020 – I say a hair because the actual estimate is $159.3 billion, and what’s $700 million between friends. Gaming is the biggest earner in the entertainment business, but do you know what dwarfs even gaming when it comes to entertaining yourself? Don’t do them kids, drugs. How’s that for a segue?

Let’s start with the two most popular, and legal, drugs: alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol is estimated to bring in a revenue of $1,371 billion this year, while British American Tobacco (the world’s largest cigarette producer) estimated that in 2018 people spent around $814 billion on legal tobacco products. Illegal drugs though? They brought in an estimated revenue of between $426 and $652 billion, and the reason for that 53% estimate variance is because, well, you’re not going to find the people making them listed on the stock exchange, issuing financial reports, or paying taxes (putting aside the fact that the legal industries do little of that as well).

Prohibition doesn’t work, because drugs are goods that people want to buy. Just take a look at how the illegal alcohol and cigarette market is booming in South Africa right now thanks to the lockdown. I think we all know at least one person who’s spending a small fortune to procure their formerly-legal vice of choice at vastly inflated prices.  

Speaking purely from a financial viewpoint it’s blindingly clear that the so-called War on Drugs, which the US alone has spent in the region of $50 billion per year combatting since the term was coined in 1971, has been an abject failure. The business has gone nowhere, it’s even stronger than ever, and it’s the subject of Netflix’s six-part documentary miniseries The Business of Drugs.

The series’ official plot synopsis is as follows:

The War on Drugs has been raging in America and world-wide for decades and in the Netflix Original series The Business of Drugs, former CIA officer Amaryllis Fox exposes the chilling economic forces that drive it all.  Whether tracking the flow of Meth through the jungles of Myanmar, or seeking out the roots of the current Opioid crisis or investigating the effects of a new legal weed market the series is a smart, provocative and raw look into the dark corners of the drug trade.

Let’s take a look:

The Business of Drugs is available on Netflix right now.

Last Updated: July 17, 2020

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