Sourcing illegal drugs as a hidden older user: the ideal of ‘social supply’

Moxon, David and Waters, Jaime (2018). Sourcing illegal drugs as a hidden older user: the ideal of ‘social supply’. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 26(5) pp. 412–421.



Aims: At a time of growing awareness regarding the non-commercial supply of illegal drugs between friends, this article explores the significance of so-called ‘social supply’ for a group of ‘hidden’ users of illegal drugs aged 40 and over.

Methodology: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 users of illegal drugs aged 40 and over who were not in contact with the criminal justice system or treatment agencies regarding their use. Participants were recruited using snowball sampling.

Findings: Accessing drugs through the commercial market was considered as a less attractive proposition than social supply by the participants. The majority used only socially supplied drugs, with some engaging commercial dealers when socially supplied product was unavailable. A handful sourced drugs exclusively through the commercial market. Some were home growers of cannabis, and a small number had drifted into social supply themselves.

Conclusions: Social supply was seen in a far more favourable light than commercial transactions by our participants, and acted as an ideal against which all other acts of sourcing were compared. Moreover, social supply was often an integral facet of the drug using experience and served to validate and enhance that experience. The relatively benign, non-predatory nature of the social supply engaged in by the participants lends support to calls for some reform of the offence of supply in UK law.

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