And more people than ever are buying their drugs off the dark web.
Over 101,300 people around the world took part in the 2016 Global Drug Survey (GDS), helping researchers form a better understanding of the current trends in drug use around the globe.
Among a number of key findings, the authors say that it’s the “worst time to be using MDMA in a generation,” as the data shows a concerning surge in the number of MDMA users who require emergency medical attention after taking the drug.
In the United Kingdom, where people take more MDMA than respondents in other parts of the world (almost half a gram in a night), there was a fourfold increase in British female clubbers who needed emergency medical treatment in the last three years. Further, the data found women to be two to three times more likely to seek emergency treatment than men.
This spike may be explained by the findings of a recent report published in April 2016 by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. The results found that MDMA manufacturers have been using a chemical called PMK-glycidate in order to achieve higher yields and greater purity of the drug.
PMK-glycidate remains legal, so it’s difficult for law enforcement to control the trade. This has led to an increase in MDMA and ecstasy pills with dangerously high concentrations of the psychoactive compound.
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Additionally, the GDS report found that synthetic cannabinoids (SC) are also a problem on the rise. In fact, SCs led to more emergency treatments than any other drug looked at in the research — one in eight people who use SCs weekly reported being admitted to the hospital.
Plus, the researchers found that the overall risk of requiring medical treatment when using SCs is 30 times higher than skunk cannabis. Notably, a 2015 study by researchers at King’s College London and the Sapienza University of Rome found that skunk cannabis can damage white brain matter and potentially even induce psychosis, so the GDS findings shouldn’t be interpreted as a suggestion that skunk cannabis is safe.
Aside from the top three legal drugs — alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine — the top 10 drugs used across the world were cannabis, MDMA, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, prescribed and non-prescribed opioids, nitrous oxide, and ketamine.
Finally, the authors report that another key finding in the research is that nearly 1 in 10 participants (9.3 percent) reported buying drugs off the dark web, with the overall rates of dark-net purchasing jumping from 4.5 percent to 6.7 percent. Interestingly, 5 percent of the survey respondents stated they they hadn’t consumed drugs prior to accessing them through the dark web markets.
The most commonly bought substances off the dark-net were MDMA, cannabis, LSD, and novel substances like 2C-B and DMT. The survey results found that 58 percent of novel psychoactive substances were purchased off the dark web.
The GDS team is comprised of experts in the fields of medicine, toxicology, chemistry, psychology, addiction, and harm reduction. For more of their findings, see their powerpoint presentation here.