It’s Never Been a Better Time to Buy Drugs on Telegram

Prices are falling on the messaging app's drug markets despite inflation and record seizures.
Max Daly
London, GB
Some of the 3.7 tonnes of cocaine seized at Southampton dock, England in April 2022. Since the bust the price of a kilo of cocaine on Telegram has fallen from £36,000 to £29,000.   

Party drug prices are falling on the encrypted messaging app despite claims of record seizures by authorities, VICE News analysis shows.

Using data over the past year from over 1,300 different drug seller listings on the encrypted messaging app in the UK, the average price for a kilo of cocaine fell from £36,000 in April 2022 to just under £29,000 in April 2023. The price of an ounce [28 grams] of the drug fell from £1,300 to £1,100.


The price of a kilo of ketamine on Telegram markets fell from £8,000 to £5,000 over the last year. 

Yet the fall in prices comes despite record seizures by the authorities last year. 

Between March 2021 and April 2022 the UK's border force intercepted record amounts of cocaine and ketamine, with seizures of those drugs jumping 68 percent and 884 percent respectively. In April 2022 border police seized what was described as a “monumental” haul of 3.7 tonnes of cocaine valued at £300 million in crates of bananas at Southampton docks.

Border forces seized more than 1.5 tons of ketamine between 2021 and 2022 compared to an average of around 180 kilos per year over the last decade. The current kilo price for ketamine is cheaper than it was a decade ago. The huge drop in price is likely influenced by  a rise in ketamine production in the Golden Triangle.  

Authorities hope that big drug seizures will have a knock-on effect on supply, in turn increasing the price of drugs. But prices for other drugs on Telegram since April 2022 also remained unaffected by inflation and record seizures the year before. 

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Screenshots of Telegram drug markets. Photo: VICE News

The average price for a wholesale pack of 1,000 ecstasy pills, of varying stamp and strength, dropped from £2,000 to £1,500, with some vendors offering to sell up to 10,000 or 20,000 pills at a time. 

A kilo of speed has remained stable at around £1,000, while a kilo of MDMA crystal briefly rose from £5,000 up to £5,500, then came back down to £5,000. A pack of 100,000 valium pills was being offered for an average price of £10,000, while a batch of 1,000 2C-B pills goes for roughly £1,950. The average price of mephedrone, which some vendors have described as being of “pre-2010 ban quality” is £5,000 a kilo.  

Now based in Dubai, Telegram was started in 2013 by Russian brothers Pavel and Nicolai Durov and now has 700 million active monthly users. 

Due to its focus on user privacy and the fact it’s easier to access than the dark web, Telegram has become the go-to global messaging app for buying and selling drugs, with data showing its drug markets, which are sometimes operated via “shopbot” drug dealers, have rocketed in popularity since 2020. 

On Telegram drug buyers and sellers chat on invite-only “channels”, some of which can have tens of thousands of active members, where anything from mescaline and “pink cocaine” to mephedrone and steroids, is available to buy. Drugs are bought using crypto currency and sent in the mail. As with the dark web, there is always the risk of being scammed, although the reliability of individual sellers and their drugs are rated, reviewed and discussed. 


The messaging app has also become a key node of the drug trade in Russia, where it is used by narco bloggers who discuss different drugs and where to buy them, and increasingly in other countries such as Argentina.

“Compared to darknet market use, Telegram is a lot easier to use and more convenient for buyers,” said Monica Barratt, a social scientist at RMIT University in Australia with an expertise in online drug markets. 

She said Telegram has become “a preferred platform for censored and illegal activities” because the platform’s founders have resisted attempts to censor its content or share information with authorities and due to the availability of shopbots which speed up sales. 

“It's not surprising that seizures are not significant enough to result in increased prices on the ground. There are so many other factors that contribute to drug prices,” said Barratt. “It is more likely that increased competition on Telegram – and open access to the prices people are charging – leads to sellers trying to get more market share, either through price decreases or other means, including offering better services or advertising premium goods.”


Karenza Moore, an expert on club drugs at Newcastle University, said neither banning drugs nor seizing them had much impact on the public’s ability to buy them. 

“In 2005 ketamine was described by young people attending clubs and raves as "the most fun you can have for twenty quid". The same year it was classified as a Class C substance. Nearly 20 years later, it is more or less around the same price for a gram – £20. 

“Since pandemic restrictions were lifted in July 2021 we have seen an increase in visible ketamine use in the night-time economy, especially at nightclubs, warehouse raves and some festivals. At several festivals in the north-west of England last summer, more people presented to welfare services on ketamine than for other popular drugs such as MDMA.” 

The analysis of Telegram’s black market showed that drugs are one of many illicit products traded on the platform. 

People are buying anything from hacked YouTube Premium accounts to fake watches. Some chat groups trade tips on insurance fraud, credit card fraud or counterfeit money. One vendor offered a highly unique “revenge mail” service, sending a selection of different types of animal shit (horse, dog or cat) in a box to a name and address of your choosing for £20, although a cowpat costs a premium £25.