Global Drug Survey And “Clueless” UK
April 16, 2014

Global Drug Survey And “Clueless” UK

Last week, while waiting in my car before a dental appointment, I watched a drug deal take place. It was 12 noon. Two guys in their 20’s walked down the hill on the busy high (pun intended) street and met another pair walking up the hill. They crossed right next to my passenger window. The packet and the money were swapped in a slick move and none of them missed a step. Nothing remarkable about it really, it happens thousands of times all over the world every day. It just struck me that if they hadn’t been so close, I would never have noticed because it was so smooth. Nevertheless, to do a swap in such a public place is a big risk, so they must have felt confident. “Hiding in full view” seems to be the plan. According to a new survey, however, this way of dealing and buying drugs is being replaced by online markets for both illegal drugs and “legal highs,” and the UK is the place where internet drug purchase is most common.

The Global Drug Survey looked at illegal drugs but also analyzed the use of legal substances like alcohol, tobacco, and even caffeine. The researchers found that more and more users are buying on the Internet with the main reasons given being better and more reliable quality, convenience, and wider choice. There is a safety consideration too as this way of buying does not involve personal contact between buyer and dealer. The results are compiled from the responses of almost 80,000 drug users in 43 countries, making it the biggest survey of its kind ever undertaken. While the majority still use traditional buying routes, the use of online markets is increasing exponentially.

In the UK a quarter of those who completed the survey said that they had used online sites to purchase drugs but 44 per cent said they had done so for the first time in 2012 or 2013 so clearly this a pretty new phenomenon. Until it was closed down in October last year the clandestine Silk Road site was the most frequently used online market. In fact it was described as the biggest black market Internet site in the world and used Bitcoin for payments with a legion of volunteers helping to run a complex system of “relays” to cover tracks and avoid detection. Plenty of other sites have moved in to fill the gap left by Silk Road.

The survey revealed that the UK is one of the world’s real problem hotspots when it comes to drug abuse with a high percentage of users taking a wide range of relatively cheap drugs and a big alcohol abuse problem. For instance, more respondents admitted taking MDMA than caffeinated drinks. The survey’s director Dr. Adam Winstock, who is a psychiatrist specializing in addiction, said that the UK just does not do things in moderation. He thought that the attitudes of many people in the UK to alcohol was “very worrying” – I reckon the attitudes of many UK people to a lot of things is worrying but that’s another story. Claiming that many countries were “clueless” about alcohol, Dr. Winstock said that the UK was the most clueless. Around 60 percent of respondents demonstrated medium, high, or dependent levels of alcohol consumption. But the big concern is that they also demonstrated a poor level of understanding – too many just did not recognise the dangers.

Although online market places pose a new problem for those seeking to reduce drug related issues, the internet itself is in the forefront of new technologies to help combat abuse. Already available is the drinksmeter app, which enables you to track and evaluate your booze consumption. The drugsmeter app will do the same thing for a wide range of substances. These apps seem well designed to appeal to the modern app lover looking to change their habits, but will they attract the drug users who just don’t want to know about risk?

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Eric Hopton is a writer, musician, artist, and photographer. He has a degree in Social Anthropology and has always been passionate about travel, having so far visited 73 countries. His music and sound work has been used in many projects around the world and can be heard on Bandcamp and Freesound, where he has contributed over 1,300 sounds under his sonic alter ego, ERH.

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