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.
Download pdf version


UK Drug Market Analysis

Purchasing Patterns and Prices (1997)

M. J. Atha S. Blanchard & S. Davis


This study, the second in the series of IDMU Regular Users surveys, examined anonymous questionnaires completed by 1136 cannabis users to assess changes in patterns of use and prices of illicit drugs since previous surveys. Prices of drugs other than cannabis, including bulk prices, are included for the first time, in national and regional tables. Most drug prices had fallen compared to previous data from 1994 or 1995.

Purchasing patterns: Most users purchase drugs when they have money available, i.e. weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Daily purchase is only common among heroin users. Cannabis was purchased in amounts between 1/8oz (3.5g) and 1oz (28g) in 92% of cases.

Estimates of the market shares of different cannabis varieties reveal a substantial increase in consumption of domestically-produced cannabis, 80% of this being flowering tops, at the expense of imported herbal cannabis. Cannabis resin remains the most common form of the drug.

Incidence of use of other drugs was similar to, or lower than, in previous years, but with a significant increase in the lifetime prevalence of ecstasy and to a lesser extent amphetamine representing increased saturation of the ecstasy market. Very few respondents reported daily use of illicit drugs other than cannabis, confirming findings of previous surveys. However around 20% of respondents would use stimulants (amphetamine, ecstasy) and 10% use hallucinogens (LSD, mushrooms) on a monthly or weekly basis.

The value of the UK cannabis market is estimated between £1.7 billion and £9 billion per annum, by reference to reported arrest rates, drug purchasing behaviour, and cultivation and Home Office seizure and arrest statistics, suggesting approximately 2 1/4 million regular cannabis users using weekly or more often.

Key words: UK, regular use, cannabis, questionnaire, attitudes of drug users, frequency of use, consumption, purchasing, patterns of drug use, costs of use (legal drugs, LSD, psilocybin, amphetamine, cocaine, heroin, crack, ecstasy), cannabis market, street prices, routes of administration, paraphernalia, plant cultivation, drug subcultures, purity, drug offences.

The Independent Drug Monitoring Unit (IDMU Ltd) is a research consultancy providing expert evidence to the courts in criminal cases involving controlled drugs. We aim to provide accurate, up to date, and impartial advice and information on issues surrounding illegal drugs for all parties to the debate on drugs policy.



The authors wish to acknowledge the practical support and assistance with distribution of the present and ongoing surveys from, Hemp Expo, the Green Party Drugs Group, Linda Hendry (LCC Scotland), the Cannabis Legalisation Campaign International Association (CLCIA), Howard Marks & Weed World magazine. Particular thanks are due to Dawn Regan for the graphics on pages 7, 21 and 27. We also appreciate assistance, information and/or encouragement from John Witton (National Addiction Centre), Harry Shapiro (ISDD), Malcolm Ramsey (Home Office), Prof Leslie Iversen, Joy Mott (Police Foundation), Don Aitken, Barbara Jacobson, Ben Ganly, Barry Mason, Paul Flynn MP, Mike Goodman, Greg Poulter & Simon Kirkham (Release). Special thanks are due to all those who participated in the survey.

About the Authors

Matthew Atha is Director of IDMU and Principal Consultant providing expert evidence for the criminal courts on drugs cases throughout the UK. Sean Blanchard is a freelance journalist and researcher based in North London, he has written and contributed to articles on drug issues and policy for Police Review, the Guardian and others. Together they have conducted a number of surveys of drug users over the past 17 years. Simon Davis has a background in youth work and the music and publishing industries, he has been employed by IDMU since 1997.

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 Website Design by Freelance Graphics