Gendered sources of drug supply for recreational drug users in the European Web Survey on Drugs
Background: Theories regarding normalization of recreational drug use have increased attention to social drug supplies and the meaning of dealing. Yet, as frequency of drug use increases, users increasingly utilize drug dealers. Further, females more often report receiving drugs for free. We examine whether gender differences in sources is moderated by increased frequency of use.
Methods: For cannabis leaf, cannabis resin, cocaine, and MDMA, we use the 16 country European Web Survey on Drugs collected from 2016-2018 to examine drug acquisition sources (dealer and free, also growing and online for cannabis) by gender and frequency of use. We model each source with logistic regression with chained multiple imputation and a country fixed-effect and clustered standard errors.
Results: Across all substances, low frequency female users had significantly lower probabilities than males in using dealers; however, females were equally likely to use dealers when use is frequent. The probability of acquiring drugs for free was higher for females except for the most frequent users, where the difference became non-significant except for cannabis leaf.
Conclusions: Females and males use dealers to acquire illicit drugs at similar rates when use is more frequent. Except for the highest frequency female users, females are typically more likely than males to acquire drugs for free. Examinations of supply and attempts to disrupt sources should consider this gendered nature of acquisition. Social supply is common, but given the patterns observed for use of dealers, we echo recent calls to consider the recreational market as a “hybrid” of sources.