How do students source and supply drugs? Characteristics of the university illegal drug trade

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Background: It is widely known that a proportion of university students use drugs. However, much less is known about how they source and supply their drugs.

Objectives: In this article, we investigate student drug trading activity, including how they obtained their drugs, whether they sold drugs, and the extent to which their drug trading might be described as a form of “social supply”.

Methods: A survey was conducted of all students across seven of the nine universities of Wales. In total, 7855 students submitted a questionnaire and 1877 of these reported drug use in the current academic year. All students who reported using one or more illegal drugs in the current academic year were asked how they obtained their drugs, how they funded their drug use, whether they had sold, traded or given away illegal drugs, along with their motives for drug trading.

Results: The results showed that about half of users obtained drugs solely from friends and associates and one-fifth obtained them solely from external dealers. One-quarter used friends and associates as well as external markets. In many cases, supplying drugs amounted to sharing them or giving them away. However, over one-third of students said that they had sold drugs.

Conclusions: Overall, the methods of sourcing and supplying drug among university students shares features of both “social supply” and “traditional” drug markets. We conclude that the student drug market investigated is best described as a “hybrid” combination of both.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1530-1540
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number9
Early online date7 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2019


  • University students
  • drug use
  • social supply
  • drug markets


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