The normalisation of drug supply: The social supply of drugs as the “other side” of the history of normalisation

Ross Coomber, Leah Moyle, Nigel South

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: Describes how the relative normalisation of recreational drug use in the UK has been productive of, and fused with, the relatively normalised and non commercial social supply of recreational drugs. Methods: Semi-structured interviews with 60 social suppliers of recreational drugs in two studies (involving a student population n = 30 and general population sample n = 30). Respondents were recruited via purposive snowball sampling and local advertising. Findings: Both samples provided strong evidence of the normalised supply of recreational drugs in micro-sites of friendship and close social networks. Many social suppliers described “drift” into social supply and normalised use was suggested to be productive of supply relationships that both suppliers and consumers regard as something less than “real” dealing in order to reinforce their preconceptions of themselves as relatively non-deviant. Some evidence for a broader acceptance of social supply is also presented. Conclusions: The fairly recent context of relative normalisation of recreational drug use has coalesced with the social supply of recreational drugs in micro-sites of use and exchange whereby a range of “social” supply acts (sometimes even involving large amounts of drugs/money) have become accepted as something closer to gift-giving or friendship exchange dynamics within social networks rather than dealing proper. To some degree, there is increasing sensitivity to this within the criminal justice system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-263
Number of pages9
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Issue number3
Early online date18 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Cite this