2005-2008 | Evaluating the Social Structure of a Local Heroin Market

National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse  (DA019476)

Principal Investigator: Lee D. Hoffer

Research Team: Georgiy Bobashev, Robert (Joey) Morris, Joshua Thorp, Mike Agar


Researching illegal drug markets in a real world setting is a difficult, time consuming and sometimes dangerous undertaking. But understanding illegal drug markets is more involved than collecting research. While information related to drug markets has been collected there are currently no ways to experiment with market conditions through time to delineate outcomes, relationships, or trends. Furthermore, while research is available on how customers and dealers within local drug market settings behave, the aggregated outcomes of these behaviors are unknown.

In other words, no research methods to date have focused on identifying, elaborating, or testing social structures that underlie these markets. Based on an ethnographic study, this project will synthesize the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of heroin dealers and customers with a method that can generate outcomes of those attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors: multi-agent social simulation. By specifying decisions and decision-making processes, in conjunction with environmental considerations, the simulation will, in effect, transform qualitative findings into quantitative output. While merging methods of social simulation programming and ethnography have not been previously attempted, the technology and raw materials (data) are in place for this sort of synergy and the potential benefits of combining these methods are considerable.