Pubdate: Mon, 08 Jun 2015
Source: Age, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2015 The Age Company Ltd
Author: Harriet Alexander


More people are buying recreational drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine 
online, partly because it is much cheaper than buying them on the 
street, where the price of drugs in Australia is more than double the 
global average.

An international survey on drug habits has detected a rapid increase 
over the past six years in the number of people who buy their drugs 
online using sites such as Silk Road, whose founder was jailed for 
life last month.

The Global Drug Survey 2015, which was conducted in partnership with 
global media organisations including Fairfax Media, polled 102,000 
people from 50 countries, including 4030 from Australia, about their 
patterns of drug use.

In 2009 only 5 per cent of respondents to the survey had bought drugs 
online, while in the latest survey a quarter had done so, including 
nearly 10 per cent of Australian respondents.

Survey founder Adam Winstock, a British addictions psychiatrist, said 
the availability of drugs online had not led to an increase in the 
number of people using recreational drugs, but rather shifted a 
portion of users to a new marketplace.

"The reason people are using the internet is really dissatisfaction 
with the existing drug markets," Dr Winstock said.

"You've still got immensely expensive drugs in Australia and to be 
honest I'm amazed that you don't have a more thriving research 
chemicals market."

Research chemicals, also known as novel psychoactive substances or " 
legal highs", are newly produced chemicals that have not been 
regulated yet - although they are illegal in NSW and Queensland.

Only 4.5 per cent of Australians  similar to the global average - 
reported buying them in the past 12 months, mostly in the form of 
herbal smoking mixtures.

The price of ecstasy pills in Australia ($ 26 each) was double the 
global average and the price of cocaine ($ 320 a gram) was more than 
double. Other findings include: The use of nitrous oxide in Australia 
had increased from 4.8 to 7.25 per cent of respondents.

Australians were among the biggest users of prescription drugs, and 
although most of them were not being abused, only 35 per cent of 
people recalled discussing the possibility of addiction with their doctors.

Although the prevalence of synthetic cannabis use was low ( 1.7 per 
cent), those who used it were more likely to seek emergency treatment 
than those using herbal cannabis, alcohol, cocaine, research 
chemicals, ecstasy ( also known as MDMA) or ketamine.

After a three-year period of dissatisfaction with ecstasy from 2007, 
the drug had returned resoundingly to the party circuit, with powder 
more popular than pills.

The survey has an inherent bias, in that respondents are more likely 
to be drug users, and some results might be skewed because the 
Australian contingent was older.

The mean age of respondents was 29, while the typical Australian 
respondent was 37, tertiary educated and working full-time in an urban area.

Dr Winstock said the closure of the internet drug marketplace Silk 
Road nearly two years ago had not affected the online drug trade, 
with the number of deals tripling from 15,000 to 45,000 over the past 
24 months.

A 25-year-old former drug dealer, who has provided his identity to 
Fairfax Media, said he used Silk Road regularly before it was shut 
down, buying cocaine and ecstasy.

The drugs, which are traded in bitcoin, were shipped from Britain and 
were cheaper and better quality than anything available in Sydney, he said.

Ecstasy that he could buy online for $ 80 a gram was good enough to 
sell in Australia for $ 450 a gram, he said.
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