The Global Drug Survey Analysed Your Weird Relationship with Your Dealer

Turns out almost 50 percent of people consider their dealer a friend; 2.8 percent have sex with them while buying drugs; and some people change supplier every two weeks.
Gavin Butler
Melbourne, AU
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This article originally appeared on VICE Asia

There’s no relationship in the world quite like the one between a person and their drug dealer. Is it a friendship, or just a cold hard business transaction? A “stay and chat” kind of thing, or a “take your weed and get the fuck out of my mum’s house” arrangement? Often it feels like something that sits awkwardly between the two. “Awkward” being the operative word.


Other questions come to mind. Like should you be climbing into the backseat of your coke guy’s family sedan, or inviting him into your home? What do you talk about with a person who’s single point of crossover with you is a satty full of pingers? And is it kosher to have sex with someone who’s just sold you an ounce?

The 2019 Global Drug Survey took a good hard look at the average person’s relationship with their dealer, and went some way towards answering these kinds of queries. Researchers interviewed 14,000 participants in what they’ve called the “biggest exploration of the ‘drug dealer’-consumer relationship ever conducted”, and these were some of the biggest takeaways.

For starters, a lot of people would in fact describe their dealer as a “friend”. About 46 percent of male participants and 41 percent of female participants said so, while 21 percent of males and 24 percent of females claimed that they merely “knew them socially”. For both males and females, 21 percent insisted rather coldly that “they’re my regular drug supplier, but they are not my friend”, and about 1.5 percent revealed that they get their gear off a family member. Most people (about 41 percent) said they’d used two or three different dealers over the previous 12 months; about 23 percent stuck with just the one; while 1.3 percent of survey participants—182 people—somehow managed to buy off 21 or more dealers over the 12-month period.


So what do these interactions between buyer and supplier typically look like? For most people, a bit of small talk is the go-to. Sixty-two percent of participants said they chatted with their dealer for five minutes or less; about 42 percent actually hung out; 37 percent took drugs with their dealer; and 20.5 percent had a drink. About 2.8 percent—392 people—had sex with their dealer while they were there, and 2.6 percent also reported “flirting” with the person who was selling them drugs.

The typical lifespan of these correspondences varies. About 19 percent of participants reported being less than a year into their relationship with their dealer; about 27 percent percent were somewhere between the one- and two-year mark; and about 10 percent had been going steady for more than 10 years.

Then there’s the matter of gender. Stereotypically speaking, drug dealers are almost always portrayed as male by default. In reality, things seem to be a little more mixed. When asked whether they had ever bought drugs from women, more than half of the survey participants (56.6 percent) said that they had, while 42.9 percent said they hadn’t. The question itself, however, seems premised on the assumption that female dealers are outliers—and while female customers were far more likely than male customers to buy from female dealers, both genders reported buying from males more often than females.

Nonetheless, for Professor Adam Winstock—the addiction medicine specialist and researcher who founded the Global Drug Survey in 2011—the findings of the poll subvert some of the commonly held assumptions and clichés around what the friendly neighbourhood drug dealer typically looks like.

“The public perception of drug dealers and dealing is largely informed by myth, images from the movies, and the use of drugs by marginalised people… where dependence drives multiple small cost purchases every day,” he says. “The GDS taps into a different population whose purchases are less frequent, less frantic, and often less risky.”

Adam concludes that “in summary, although buying drugs can be risky and there are clearly dodgy dealers out there, the overwhelming view held by our respondents of the person supplying their drugs on the ground level reflects the highest level of trust required on both sides of the transaction when dealing in an illegal commodity.”

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