The UK had the highest rate of legal high purchases in 2015 of any country surveyed in the largest study of drug use worldwide.
The Global Drug Survey (GDS), released today, polled more than 100,000 drug users in 20 countries including the US, UK, Mexico, Colombia and Germany.
It found respondents from the UK had a purchase rate of 11.6 per cent of novel psychoactive substances (NPS), which are more commonly known as legal highs. Purchases grew in 2015 after four years of declining rates.
Almost six in 10 users (58 per cent) reported turning to the internet to buy legal highs online, as “high street” purchases fell from 46.3 per cent of sales in the 2014 Global Drugs Survey to 34.6 per cent this year. In late May legal highs, which include poppers, spice and balloons, were banned under the Psychoactive Substances Act. Offenders who break the new laws could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.
The survey also found that, despite attempts across the world to crack down on the so-called “dark web”, almost one in 10 respondents worldwide reported that they had ever used the internet to buy illicit substances, while those reporting last year dark net purchases rose from 4.5 per cent to 6.7 per cent.
In addition, five per cent of respondents said they did not consume drugs prior to accessing them on the dark web.
Increasing rates of nitrous oxide use have bumped laughing gas up the rankings to be the seventh most popular drug in the world. Cannabis, MDMA, cocaine, magic mushrooms and ketamine were also among the top 10 most used drugs.