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COVID-19 Call for information on the UK Drugs Market

We need your help to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the UK drugs market! Visit the Release website to complete our 5 minute survey on drug purchases in the UK.


Monitoring the impact of COVID19 on the UK Drugs Market


Release, the UK’s centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law, has set up a network of people across the nation to provide information on the drugs market as transformations occur. Any information on how the drugs market is being impacted by COVID-19 is welcome as these learnings will help ensure people are being signposted to the appropriate harm reduction services as well as sharing the most accurate information. 

The growing threat is that without any evidence of rapid changes to the drug market, it becomes increasingly difficult for harm reduction services and interventions to reach those who require them. If supply reaches critical levels and prices increase, it could have devastating effects and will likely lead to a spike in drug-related deaths due to withdrawal symptoms, as previous heroin shortages have shown. 

On April 1, the Home Secretary wrote a letter to the Chair of the Advisory Council of the Misuse of Drugs calling for emergency measures to be put in place as the NHS is further strained by the coronavirus pandemic. While the letter addresses concerns regarding controlled drugs within the healthcare system, the illicit market faces a set of different challenges to overcome. 


We can’t do this research alone!


There are two main ways you can support this research. 

  1. Complete our 5 minute drug purchasing survey and share it with others! 
  2. Contact our confidential phone line on 020 7324 2988 or email: drugreport@release.org.uk

We are particularly interested in learning some of the following:

  • Is there a change in the market?
  • Is the market stable?
  • Have prices gone up?
  • Have deals got smaller?
  • Are there more adulterated drugs?
  • Are new drugs appearing?
  • Are people shifting to alternative substances as their usual drug of choice dries up?

These are just some of the questions we are interested in, but any information you have on the market is welcomed. The purpose of this learning is to ensure we can share the most accurate harm reduction messages, signpost people to the right harm reduction interventions and to treatment, if that’s what they want.


Supply and distribution has already been impacted


As borders have closed in light of COVID-19, the supply and distribution of drugs in the UK market has already been impacted. The price of cannabis has increased across the UK, with suppliers responding to the emergency powers enacted by the government which restrict ‘non-essential’ travel. There are also reports of reductions in the supply of “Spice”, the synthetic cannabinoid. In addition, some dealers at the lower end of the supply chain have reported they’re not distributing during the crisis, fearing arrest and a complete ‘drought’.

Across the board, it is clear that the drugs market is already suffering from stockpiling and shortages, putting some of the most vulnerable people who use drugs at risk during the lockdown. However, as the situation continues to develop, there is still a lack of clear evidence as to how the market is responding due to the illicit nature of the market. 

People who use drugs and their suppliers tend not to be highly visible and ready to freely share information due to the risks imposed under prohibition and otherwise punitive drug policy. With the lockdown in place and services reduced, we need people on the ground to be willing to share as much information regarding the drugs market during the COVID-19 pandemic as possible via our confidential channels.


If you have any information regarding changes to the UK drugs market and how COVID-19 is impacting you directly, visit the Release website, contact our confidential phone line on 020 7324 2988 or email: drugreport@release.org.uk

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