High society- Britain’s drug taking clubbers

Almost all Britain’s thousands of clubbers routinely take drugs, in particular cocaine , cannabis and ecstasy.

The first wideranging academic study of clubbers’ behaviour in a decade, released this month, indicates that thousands of apparently successful, healthy and economically active people in their twenties, thirties and forties choose to be heavy recreational drug users at the weekend.

Not only do the findings suggest almost ubiquitous drug use in and around Britain’s clubs, in particular cannabis, cocaine and Ecstasy, but they point to the emergence of new substances on the pharmaceutical block, such as ketamine and GHB, being used increasingly by clubbers as part of assorted drug “repertoires” at the weekends.

Ketamine, a Class C drug, is an anaesthetic, sometimes used on animals, which causes temporary hallucinations. GHB — gammahydroxybutrate — is also Class C and produces a feeling of euphoria. Both can be dangerous, powerful drugs.

Dr Fiona Measham and Dr Karenza Moore, criminologists from Lancaster University, set out to explore the hidden world of pharmaceutical intoxication in Britain’s bars and night clubs. What they found, in the most thorough examination ever undertaken of drugs across the British night-time economy, was extraordinary.

They discovered evidence that almost all Britain’s thousands of clubbers routinely take drugs, in particular cocaine (tried by 83 per cent of people), cannabis (93 per cent) and ecstasy (85 per cent). Eight in ten had taken a drug within the previous month, and nearly two in three of those questioned had taken, or were going to take, drugs on the night they were surveyed.

These statistics, published in the journal Criminology and Criminal Justice, demonstrate how drug-enduced dancing and socialising has become a significant part of modern culture, albeit taking place “under the radar” with the tacit acceptance of police, politicians and economists.

Indeed, the figures indicate that much of Britain’s burgeoning night time economy, worth as much as £30 billion, and employing about one million people, is inextricably linked to the night long consumption of illegal drugs. 

The trend is such that the main clubbing nights have been moved from Saturdays to Fridays specifically to allow people to recover in time for work or lectures on Monday morning.

The extent and complexity of drug use that the academics uncovered surprised them. “Everyone knows that it goes on,” says Measham, a senior lecturer in criminology, whose 2001 study Dancing on Drugs was until now the seminal study of recreational drug use. “How else would the clubbers stay awake until 5am, when the club closes? But it’s unspoken.

“Drug taking is implicitly facilitated but it’s the individual who takes the risks. And there are risks — the implications of having a criminal record on your career, for one, and the health aspects.

“One of the big surprises was the scale of polydrug use [the taking of several substances]. Fifteen years ago people would take an Ecstasy tablet or two and a wrap of speed; now they are taking a whole range of drugs without knowing what the impact is of these polydrug cocktails. We just don’t know about ketamine and GHB. We’re seeing a lot more use of both drugs. Ketamine has not displaced Ecstasy but it has been added to the repertoire.”


Health Direct will be posting the second part of this research tomorrow.
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