Whats New Drugs Info Legal Research Links Email
Some articles have not been moved to our new site yet.
As a result you have been redirected to our old site.
If you wish to return to our new site - click here.
Back to intro

Section 1 - Demographics

Next Page

There were 1333 responses to the survey: 68% of respondents were male, 32% female. Ages ranged from 15 to 68, with 21 the most common. The mean age was 25 years and two months, with no significant age difference between the sexes. They were overwhelmingly white; 88% gave their ethnic origin as 'White UK' and 10% as 'Other European'.

68% of respondents were employed, with an average income overall of £11, 592. Income increased with age by an average of £396 per year. 17% were unemployed. 6 people gave their occupations as drug dealer; their reported income was very close to the mean.

A quarter of our respondents were school or university students (the question did not distinguish between them). Students reported significantly lower levels of drug consumption than other drug users.

Nearly half of respondents were from the south of England, 3% were from abroad. The largest proportion, 39%, lived in towns, and 24% in inner cities. Around 5% had accommodations which could not be described as 'private accommodation', including travellers, homeless and hostel dwellers.

Compared with Home Office statistics for drugs convictions and cautions in 1994 this sample under-represents the under 20's by between one third and a half, and over-represents 20-30 year olds by between a quarter and a half, which was highly statistically significant. Our sample significantly under-represents ethnic minorities compared with the UK population, and with conviction statistics. However, it may be that those convicted are not a representative sample of all drug users, just as they are not of the general population. Some comparisons made here with the British Crime Survey (BCS) and Home Office statistics may be imprecise for reasons apart from the limitations of our sample. They only cover England and Wales, and the BCS did not reach the homeless, travellers, or those living in institutions such as student halls of residence. Two recent studies of night-club goers wich adopted a similar targeted strategy to our study, achieving a near 100% sample of illicit drug users, are perhaps more appropriate comparisons.

Some differences appeared in data gathered by the different sampling methods. Snowball samples included two separate groups of university students, reflected in the younger age and lower cannabis use than other samples. None of these had used barbiturates, tranquillisers or solvents, and they had high alcohol use. The direct mail respondents were significantly older than other groups, and had lower levels of use of legal drugs. The group returning festival questionnaires by post had higher levels of aggregate drug frequency. Although differences were not significant for individual drugs, when aggregated the differences between samples in overall frequency of drug use achieved statistical significance. The general similarity in responses indicates that the festival samples were not unrepresentative of regular cannabis users.


Section 2 - Use of All Drugs

Fifteen drugs were listed on the questionnaire; tea/coffee (combined), tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, LSD, "magic" mushrooms, ecstasy, amphetamine, cocaine, crack, heroin, barbiturates, tranquillisers, solvents, 'other psychedelics' and the fictional 'Bliss' as a control. Some respondents specified their other psychedelics - those they had tried included mescaline, DMT, Ketamine, Bromo-STP, and several types of hallucinogenic mushroom other than European psilocybin.

Respondents were asked the age they first used each drug, rather than whether they ever had, as a way of tracking the historical sequences of their drug taking.

For all drugs there was a choice of seven usage levels suggested, from 'used once' to 'more than daily', plus 'never used, and don't intend to' 'never used, but might try it', 'never heard of it', and 'no longer use it'. Only one option was logged for each response.

For most tables of variations in frequency of use, the 'daily' and 'more than daily' responses from Table 2.1 were merged as 'daily'. The 'regular but not weekly' and the 'weekly but not daily' were combined as 'regular use', and the 'used once' and 'used under 10 times' as 'experimental use'. This makes comparisons with other studies on specific drugs more coherent.

Since this study was directed at people who had "used cannabis or other illegal drugs at least once", it is not surprising that cannabis was by far the most commonly tried illegal drug, used at some time by 99.6% of all respondents, and 95.3% within the previous week, which makes them 'regular drug users' in the terminology of most studies.

LSD was the second most popular illegal drug ever used, tried at least once by 76%, with mushrooms tried by 69.5 % and amphetamines third at 68%. Half had tried ecstasy and 42% cocaine. 14.5% had tried heroin, and 9% crack. These figures are all much higher than in the general population. Of the 1992 British Crime Surveys' reported 14% who had ever used cannabis, 6% had also ever tried any other illegal drugs - 43% of cannabis users.


Legal Drugs

Daily use of tea/coffee and tobacco plus regular use of alcohol were the most common patterns, daily users would spend on average £5 per month on tea & coffee, £32 on tobacco, and £66 on alcohol (regular users £38). Mean consumption was 5.1 cups per day of tea and coffee, 9 cigarettes per day, and 19 units of alcohol per week.

A proportion of respondents may have been prescribed tranquillisers or depressants, others may have obtained them illicitly, which will distort the frequency of use and amounts spent. These were viewed negatively by most respondents, with few regular users.

Not surprisingly, since barbiturates are no longer widely available, lifetime use was much more prevalent among older respondents, although awareness was low in general.

Around one in five respondents had experimented with solvent abuse, but very few had continued beyond experimentation.



All but 10 respondents had used cannabis at least once, and of those 6 were willing to try it. 198 people, around 15%, had never used any illegal drug except cannabis. The overall mean monthly cannabis use of the respondents was 24.8g per month, around 7/8 of an ounce. Consumption of cannabis by daily users averaged 34.8g per month, with mean purchase of 64.3g per month. Average spending was £68.90. The maximum accepted personal consumption was 200-250g, or 7-9oz per month (10 respondents). Although one user claimed to consume 4kg this was discounted as invalid, in view of the inconsistent responses to other questions. Most of the data on cannabis is discussed elsewhere in this report (see sections 4 & 5).

The levels of cannabis use were on average slightly lower than those found by the authors in a similar 1984 population, and lower than in the study by McBride. Part of the apparent decrease results from asking how much is used, rather than bought, in an average month; the mean amount purchased increased by nearly 50% from 29.3g to 43.6g per month.



Only nine people reported daily heroin use out of a total sample of 1333 users of controlled drugs. Their average reported monthly spending on heroin was £369.44, although five individuals spent over £500 per month. The average would equate to a £10 bag per day, and the heaviest of these users would be using up to half a gram per day (Table 2.2). 192 people had ever tried it, around 14% of the whole sample. It is not likely that the survey, at a rural pop festival where supplies of the drug would be uncertain and/or expensive, would have provided a representative sample of heroin users. In the Release drugs and dance survey 18% of respondents at dance events had ever used heroin, and Brannigan et al found 13% in similar circumstances. In our 1984 survey 23% had used heroin, with 0.5% (3 respondents) reporting daily heroin use.


Cocaine and Crack

This study suggests that the majority of cocaine users are experimental, i.e. had used the drug less than 10 times (59%), or occasional (38%), using the drug less than weekly, often for special occasions. Fourteen respondents (3% of cocaine users) considered themselves regular or daily users, spending an average of just over £60 per month. Five reported spending in excess of £200, and two in excess of £1000 per month on the drug, equivalent to one to two ounces of the drug per month. One person claimed to spend £21,000 on the drug each month, although in view of his other responses, this was not considered to be for personal use.

A small minority had used crack (119 respondents - 18% of the number of cocaine users, or 7% of the total sample of drug users), all except one of whom were experimental or occasional users. The majority (67%) of crack users had used the drug less than 10 times. Although most forms were distributed at a pop festival, which heavy users of crack may not frequent, 8 of the reported crack users came from a subsample of 12 respondents recruited from a drugs advice agency.



Most of those who had used amphetamine were occasional (63%) or experimental (30%) users of the drug. The 14 daily users (2%) spent on average £86.43 per month (equivalent to 10g-30g at gram/ounce prices) with the heaviest of these spending £300 to £500 per month on the drug, equivalent to 85g-500g at ounce/kilo prices (3g to 17g per day).

In the present authors" 1984 survey, the heaviest spending was over £100 per month, when average purity was closer to 20% and at a similar price before inflation. More 1984 respondents had injected amphetamine than heroin. There was no question on injecting in this survey. These surveys would under-represent heavier users due to the relatively small numbers involved.

Klee & Morris found that 17% of injecting amphetamine users surveyed reported spending over £150 per week on the drug. This would be equivalent to 10-30 grams. Of amphetamine injectors, 2% spent over £300 per week, most probably 3 to 4 ounces (84 to 112g), representing 12-16 grams per day of street quality material. In 1985, Caplin & Woodward found that 11% of primary amphetamine users spent over £200 per week on the drug, with 3% spending over £250. Oral consumption of up to 8 grams per day is reported by ISDD. Those figures are broadly consistent with the heaviest users in this survey. Reported dosages from the literature must be qualified by the purity of the amphetamine. Typically street quality "speed" can be under 5% amphetamine powder. Intravenous use of such low purity material would entail severe health risks from the contaminants , .



The survey found 14% of the drug users questioned used ecstasy on a more or less weekly basis, with 3% doing so more often. Occasional or experimental use was the norm. Just over 50% of respondents had ever used the drug. Regular users spent an average £88 per month on ecstasy, equivalent to 5-11 tablets per month.

The highest levels of use over a single day were reported in the USA by Beck et al where respondents referred to friends who used 900mg in one sitting, plus a college student who claimed to have used 1.25g (equivalent to 10-15 tablets) over a 24 hour period. A further long-term user would binge on a total of 1.5g (13-18 tablets) an evening or weekend. The effective limit on bingeing would appear to be 2-3 days, after which a long recuperation would be required. In the UK, ISDD report weekend dosages of up to 20 tablets, and some cases of daily use over 3 to 4 weeks.



Roughly three quarters of the sample had ever tried LSD; one in eight would consider themselves to be regular, but not weekly users. Only 2.2%, 29 people, used LSD weekly or more often. Very few individuals in this survey would use hallucinogens on a daily basis, although some may sustain daily use over a limited period. The questioning of individuals during a pop festival where LSD was available (despite the attentions of site security), may well have somewhat over-represented the number of daily users.

In our 1984 survey, out of 609 respondents, some 374 had used LSD (61%), 163 on less than ten occasions, and most (203) on an occasional basis. Only 8 (<1%) then used the drug weekly or more often, with two daily users. This compares with a 1971 US study of drug use among arrestees, which suggested that among the 269 subjects who had ever used psychedelic drugs (not specified) 35 (13%) used these drugs daily, and a further 21% weekly or more often. Arrestees may be unrepresentative of LSD users - consuming the drug in a more chaotic, and hence visible, manner would make the user more liable to arrest than someone using the drug quietly in his/her own home or at a pop festival - and the unspecific definition of psychedelic drugs in that study may well refer to cannabis in addition to the true hallucinogens. In the Release drugs and dance survey, 78% of respondents at dance events had ever used LSD. Brannigan et al, for the London Dance Safety Campaign, found 41%.


Magic Mushrooms

Most users consume mushrooms occasionally, monthly or sometimes weekly, although both this survey and the 1984 survey found individual users who may consume mushrooms several times per week, particularly when in season. Estimating mushroom consumption is limited by the fact that users do not normally buy them, but pick them from the wild. This makes the monthly spending data virtually irrelevant.

Grinspoon suggests that the effects of psilocybin become noticeable at a dose of 4-6mg, with the usual dose being 10-20mg, or 5 to 10 grams of dried mushroom. Cooper states that dried Psilocybe Semilanceata contains 0.1 to 0.4 % psilocybin, and up to 0.2% psilocin, and concluded that 30-40g of fresh, or 5g of dry mushrooms would be required to produce an average active dose of 6mg. By these calculations, 5 to 20 grams would be required to produce a high (20mg) dose of psilocybin and psilocin. Although a novice user might consume 30-50 mushrooms to produce a "trip", many experienced users claim to have consumed several hundred mushrooms at a single sitting. As tolerance develops to the effects over the short-term, those using mushrooms more often than weekly will need substantially higher, and increasing, doses to produce the desired effects.


Progression from cannabis to other drugs

Although a majority of respondents had tried drugs other than cannabis, most had only done so a few times. Among the addictive drugs, only tobacco showed a majority of users who"d ever tried it still consuming daily or more often. Among the 192 respondents who had tried heroin, 53% had used the drug either once or less than ten times, (commonly described as 'experimental use'), and 11.5% 'occasionally'. 21% more said they had ceased using it. Under 5% of those who'd ever tried it - 9 people - used heroin daily or more often. For cocaine it was only 5 users, under 1% of those who"d tried it - 54% had experimented under 10 times, 26% occasionally, and 9% had stopped. Crack had 60% "experimental" use, 15% occasional and only one daily user. Amphetamines had 27% experimental, 36.5% occasional and 11.5% ex-users, to 1.5% daily users. The most rejected drug was barbiturates, no longer used by 29% who ever had, and under 10 times ever by 45% more. Solvents, tranquillisers, heroin, and crack all showed that aprox. 21% of those who"d ever tried them said they no longer used them (Table 2.1).

A fictitious drug, Bliss, was added to the questions as a control. 20 people claimed to have experienced Bliss, only one regularly. This was probably a stoned joke. 337 had never heard of it, 673 left the question blank. Since the survey was conducted some reports have indicated that a drug or variant known as Bliss has appeared on the UK market, believed to be an analogue or 'brand' of LSD. This indicates the difficulty of devising bogus yet convincing names of fictional drugs for the purpose of survey validation.

Among those who had not tried the various drugs, 'never used - don't intend to' outnumbered 'not used yet (but might)' for all drugs except mushrooms and cannabis. The highest "would never use" figures were for crack, heroin, and solvents. The most popular drugs not yet tried were magic mushrooms (28% of non-users), ecstasy and LSD (19%), other psychedelics, and cocaine. Fewer non-users would consider using amphetamine (5%), crack (4%), heroin (3%) or solvents (less than 1%).

The low never heard of this drug figures indicate respondents had a wide general level of knowledge of the drug scene. Bliss and barbiturates were the only drugs any significant number were ignorant of. Barbiturates are no longer widely available, so this may be age-related, but may also be distorted by using the formal rather than street names, as also with "heroin" rather than smack, skag, etc., and possibly crack, also known as rocks.

Approximately half of all respondents did not answer the questions about use levels of other psychedelics, crack, bliss, barbiturates, tranquillisers, solvents or heroin.

When scores for the frequency of use of each drug were correlated, the highest coefficient was between LSD and mushrooms, with high correlations between amphetamines and LSD and ecstasy, and ecstasy and LSD and cocaine. Cannabis correlated to a lesser degree with mushrooms, LSD and ecstasy (Table 2.4).

We found no evidence for progression from regular cannabis use to regular use of any other drug, though there appears to be some for a progression to experimental use, particularly with hallucinogens. Responses on Bliss show that 3% of those who answered might be willing to experiment with this completely unknown, in fact non-existent, substance, and 44% would never do so. Responses for heroin and crack from those who had never used them indicate 92% would never try them, and 0.7% might do so. Well publicised dangers and low social acceptability seem to be better deterrents than ignorance of drugs.



The highest spending on drugs was by the very small numbers of daily or more frequent heroin users, at nearly £370 per month. However, there were not enough daily users of cocaine or crack to make a comparison. Cannabis spending was second highest among daily users, at £96/month. Among the 'regular but not daily' users, heroin and ecstasy were the drugs costing users most, at £85/month, with cocaine costing £61, alcohol £38, and cannabis £32/month (Table 2.2).

Cannabis accounted for 42% of all the money spent on all drugs per month, the market share. The legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, accounted for 37% more (Table 2.3).

We found very few significant regional variations in frequencies of use of any drug, and their significance was small (Table 2.5). This differs from the 1992 British Crime Survey, which found the percentage who had ever used cannabis significantly higher among people living in London, but few regional variations in use of other drugs. This may suggest frequency of use to be independent of prevalence in any area.


History of Drug Use

The first illegal use of drugs for a majority was under-age tobacco and/or alcohol use, which both commonly began between ages 12-14. The peak age of initial use was 15-16 for cannabis, 15-18 for the psychedelics and amphetamine, and 18-20 for heroin, cocaine and crack. Only crack and ecstasy had large numbers who first tried them after the age of 25 - possibly because these drugs were not widely available in the UK when they were younger.

The view has been expressed that many of today"s cannabis users became involved in the 1960's and early '70s when cannabis use had a particular ideological significance (Mott 1984). However, although 20% of respondents were aged over 30, the highest number were between 20 and 24. This may be an artefact of the sampling procedure due to the average ages of festival goers, however it roughly matches the British Crime Survey data that drug taking was highest among 16 to 29 year olds. The peak age of initiation to cannabis use is 16, and most who do so will have tried the drug before 20 years of age. The peak years of initiation were 1989-92, though it is probable that those who first used the drug more recently are under represented with the apparent tail off in 1992-4 being a sampling artefact. The peak years of first use for all other drugs except alcohol and tobacco were in the 1990"s.

The numbers of people who first used cannabis in any given year between 1973-91, and the numbers convicted or cautioned for cannabis offences in the same years, correlate very closely (p< 0.0001, r = 0.89). More people started using in the years when more legal action took place. Both might be linked to availability, both police and aspiring users finding cannabis easier to get hold of in some years. Whatever the cause of these simultaneous trends, the close correlation seems to indicate that na"ve users are not deterred by police action against their peers.

Drug use and Employment Status

Students, the most commonly used sub-population in drugs studies, consistently use less of all drugs except alcohol, on average, and spend less on them, than employed or unwaged people. Students users smoke less cannabis, roll less joints, and pay more for what they use per gram. This does not seem to be income - related, as the unwaged reported lower incomes on average, yet took more drugs overall. The unwaged were on average the most frequent users of the legal drugs, amphetamines, and heroin. They were less likely to use ecstasy than workers. Otherwise, we found no significant differences between the employed and unemployed. Among the 69% who were employed, we found no significant differences in patterns of use related to type of employment. Those who refused or failed to state their occupation tended on average to be higher users of all drugs (Table 2.7).

On the basis of these results, findings from studies of student drug use cannot easily be extrapolated to describe all drug users.

All contents of this web site & any links to other sites etc, is for educational & research purposes. IDMU at no time seeks to encourage illegal activities. All sections of this site and its contents are protected under copyright laws. © IDMU Ltd 1994 - 2008