8 - Trouble with the Law
and the Law
The term 'busted'
was used in the questionnaire, as it commonly is in British
drug cultures, to mean convicted or cautioned for any
offence (though some respondents might have also meant
arrested without being charged, or raided). 24% of respondents
answering the question had been busted for cannabis offences,
8% for other drugs, and 14% for other offences. This study
did not ask specifically what other drugs, or other offences.
A total of 283 people had been busted altogether (21.2%
of respondents), some for more than one type of offence.
This is very similar to the 22% of respondents 'busted'
in the 1984 survey.
In most years,
the majority of drugs cases involve possession of cannabis.
In the survey 83% of drugs cases had been for possession,
88.5% involved cannabis, 49% were dealt with by cautioning,
5% were imprisoned (Tables 2.8-2.10). The Home Office
Statistical Bulletin lists 87.5% of drugs cases in 1994
as for possession, 83% involving cannabis, 56% being cautioned
and 7% jailed. This is broadly similar; the differences
are probably because our respondents" trouble with
the law was in earlier years. Although the use of cautions
has been increasing, so apparently has the use of imprisonment.
The Release Drugs & Dance survey found that 28% of
drug users had had non-specified "trouble with the Police",
but found much higher arrest statistics among respondents
who had attended unlicensed events, more liable to police
activity. It is possible that persons attending free festivals
may be more likely to be searched by police; in 1984,
8% of respondents reported that they had been searched
on the way to the festival.
Those who had
been busted for cannabis used significantly more illegal
drugs (p< 0.0005), significantly more frequently than
those who had not. Although there were no apparent differences
in income, those busted were on average just under three
years older, and by regression of current income against
age might have been expected to be £20/week better
off. They also spent far more money on drugs - 2.5 times
as much on cannabis and 7 times as much on other illegal
drugs (significance p< 0.005 and p< 0.01).
Users who had
been convicted or cautioned for a cannabis offence gave
slightly higher ratings out of ten for cannabis, as well
as ecstasy & other psychedelics, cocaine, crack, heroin
and tranquillisers. Those who had been arrested or convicted
for other drugs gave consistently higher ratings to all
drugs except solvents, however none of these differences
were statistically significant. There is certainly no
evidence to suggest that a drug conviction would lead
to more negative attitudes to drugs.
could indicate either successful police targeting of heavier
users (not necessarily dealers), or that being busted
for any offence may contribute to encouraging more chaotic
drug use. Convictions do not appear to deter, nor to induce
negative attitudes to drugs. A conviction may even stimulate
with criminal convictions other than for drug or motoring
offences reported earlier first use of all drugs except
crack and 'other psychedelic'. This difference was
in the cases of tobacco, LSD, amphetamine and cocaine.
They reported more frequent use of most drugs, highly
significant in the cases of tobacco, amphetamine, cocaine,
crack, heroin, barbiturates, tranquillisers and solvents.
They also reported spending more than the average respondent
on drugs; 17 times as much on cocaine, 27 times as much
on heroin, 4 times as much on amphetamines, 3 times as
much on cannabis, and 2.5 times as much on ecstasy (all
statistically significant). Offenders gave significantly
higher ratings to crack, heroin and solvents (drugs rejected
by the vast majority of respondents), but gave marginally
lower ratings to the psychedelic drugs (LSD, mushrooms,
'other') and amphetamine. Offenders were more likely to
start smoking tobacco earlier, and to smoke more cigarettes
per day. While offenders were less frequent users of alcohol
than non-offenders, they spent slightly more on alcohol
and drank significantly more units per week, suggestive
of a tendency to drink to excess on a few occasions, rather
than to drink steadily every night of the week. Offenders
used significantly more cannabis, bought more and spent
more on cannabis, and smoked more joints and pipes per
day than non-offenders. Total drug spending (all drugs
including legal drugs) was over 3 times as high among
offenders, (mean £103.85 per week, compared to £30.08
per week in non-offenders), suggesting that offenders
may be those who are less able to control their appetites
for drugs than the otherwise law-abiding user.
appear to show drug-using drivers involved in roughly
the same number of accidents as the UK average, even though
the respondents were younger than the average driver,
and might therefore be assumed to be involved in more
than the average number of accidents (Table 8.7). Fourteen
drivers (1.5% of drivers) were involved in 77 accidents
(17.1% of total). This group spent significantly more
on all illicit drugs than other respondents, but (surprisingly)
were not significantly heavier users of alcohol, and did
not differ significantly in monthly cannabis use or purchase.
might have resulted in artificially low figures may be
(i) not all drivers had been driving for 5 years, (ii)
users on lower incomes may cover less distance per year
than the average, or (iii) there may have been under reporting
of accidents. Factors which might have artificially raised
the estimate may be (i) exclusion from total mileage of
drivers who did not respond to the question on accidents,
many of whom may have considered it irrelevant. If this
mileage is included the rate falls to 0.652 per 100,000
km; (ii) reporting of accidents which occurred over 5
years previously, (iii) the respondents are younger than
the average driver, and would normally be expected to
have more accidents than the national average.
relationships were found between the frequency of use
of other drugs and reported accident rates, except for
occasional Ecstasy users who showed an accident rate 35%
higher than other drug users. Due to the small subsample
this only just achieved statistical significance. There
were weak correlation's between accidents and aggregate
spending on most drugs, suggesting that heavier users
may be more at risk, although none of these correlation"s
were statistically significant (Table 8.8).
low proportion of road accident casualties testing positive
for cannabis (9.2%) would appear to be lower than the
proportion of young adults (16%) who admitted using cannabis
over the previous month in the 1996 British Crime Survey
. The figures certainly give no support to claims that
moderate use of cannabis, or of other illicit drugs, are
major causes of road-traffic accidents. However, very
heavy and/or chaotic poly-drug users who drive would appear
to present a greater risk to themselves and other road
users. Current police concerns about the dangers posed
by 'drugged drivers' would appear to be misplaced.
3. A clear
majority of users reported positive or highly positive
attitudes to cannabis, Mushrooms, LSD and Ecstasy (in
that order), and an overwhelming majority gave negative
or highly negative ratings to solvents, crack, barbiturates,
heroin, and tranquillisers. Subjective ratings of individual
drugs were lowest among non-users, and highest among regular
or daily users of each drug. LSD was responsible for the
greatest number of worst, and of best drug experiences.
A majority of those reporting health problems arising
from cannabis also reported health benefits. The most
common mental health benefit reported was relaxation and/or
all respondents had used cannabis; the majority were
daily users. Although the majority of users consume
a moderate amount (1g per day or less, around 6 typical
joints), there is a significant minority of heavy users
consuming 1 to 2 ounces per week (4g to 9g per day,
10 to 20 or more joints). Even the heaviest UK users,
including growers of cannabis (who use significantly
more than average), use substantially less than in Caribbean
producer countries. The distribution of cannabis consumption
among UK users appears to have altered little since
1984, although prevalence indicators suggest that the
number of drug users in the general population has increased
substantially in that time.
2. Most regular
cannabis users will have tried a range of drugs, notably
LSD, mushrooms, amphetamine and ecstasy. For most, such
use is experimental or occasional. Hardly any respondents
were regular users of cocaine, heroin or crack, and
the proportion of daily heroin users within the sample
(<1%) is similar to that found in 1984 (0.5%). Of
those who have not yet done so, fewer would try heroin
than in 1984. While these results provide some support
for a progression from regular cannabis use to experimental
or occasional use of hallucinogens and/or stimulants,
there is no evidence of any progression from any level
of cannabis use to regular use of any other drug. Ecstasy
use among persons attending festivals would appear to
be substantially lower than among 'clubbers'.
who had been convicted or cautioned for cannabis offences
were significantly more likely to use, and/or to spend,
substantially more money, on a range of drugs. These
results may indicate that the effect of an arrest could
be more likely to stimulate than to deter subsequent
drug use. The year of first use of cannabis mirrors
the police conviction statistics for those years, suggesting
both to be determined to a large extent by availability,
and that naive users are not substantially deterred
by convictions among their peers.
5. The overall
level of road traffic accidents reported by respondents
who drove appeared to be no greater than that found
in the general population. However, the small minority
of respondents reporting multiple accidents were significantly
heavier users of and/or spenders on a range of drugs.
The proportion of road accident victims testing positive
for cannabis, indicating use within the past month (under
10%) may not exceed the level of use among the general
population, particularly among the young adults (i.e.
inexperienced drivers) who are statistically more likely
to become involved in road accidents. These results
provide no support for the view that moderate drug use,
particularly of cannabis, makes a significant contribution
to road traffic accident statistics.
tended to be lighter users of most drugs, and to have
first used most drugs later in life, than men. Users
under 20 had first used cannabis at a mean age three
years younger than users over 30. The heaviest users
of drugs tended to be respondents in their twenties.
This is consistent with the finding in 1984 that users
experiment with a range of drugs early in a drug-using
career, and settle down to a more stable pattern involving
regular cannabis use and, for some, occasional use of
reported lower drug use than unemployed or working respondents,
a finding common to both the authors" previous
surveys of this nature. A high proportion of drug abuse
surveys concentrate on school and/or university students;
these results suggest such studies may substantially
underestimate the prevalence, and levels of, drug use
among young adults, and any generalisations from such
studies would be of questionable validity.
of cannabis are remarkably stable throughout the UK,
both in geographical distribution and between inner-city
and rural areas. The level of recognition of different
types of cannabis appears to be lower than in previous
generations, many could not easily distinguish between
cannabis or resin of different types or origins. Eighth
ounce deals (nominal 3.5g) of most types of cannabis
resin tend to cost £15 or less, herbal cannabis
£15 or more. "Skunk" and similar have
more variable prices, from under commercial prices to
up to twice the price of resin, most commonly £20
to £25 per eighth, but also supplied at lower prices
on an informal basis. "Home grown" (outdoor/leaf)
prices are much lower, around half the average resin
price, but where supplied such material would most commonly
be given away free. Prices are both lower and more variable
in larger quantities.
of these results to prevalence in the population may
not be reliable due to the nature of the user population
under study, although both previous surveys by the authors
have found similar patterns of use and rates of arrest.
However, using arrest statistics and reported "busts"
among respondents in this survey as indicators, regular
cannabis users could comprise some 2.75 million UK citizens
in 1994, consuming 817 metric tons of cannabis products
per year worth approximately £3.5 billion at street
level. These estimates would probably be conservative.