Illegal drug consignments

This research aims to explore the illegal drugs supply in Scottish communities by post.

Research focus

This project aims to examine the effects of disruptions to the illegal drugs supply on drugs-related health outcomes in Scottish communities, focusing on the impacts of law enforcement tactics used to counter the postal delivery of drugs.

To date analysis has focused on the National Crime Agency 'Controlled Deliveries' data: exploring the consignment sizes of different drugs packages identified by the UK Border Agency being intended to be delivered into Scotland in the post between April 2011-Jaunary 2016 to assess whether these packages are most likely to be for personal use, non-commertically related (or “social”) supply or for commertically-motivated resale. 

This question is particularly pressing given the rise of online cryptomarkets and the challenges these pose for law enforcement agencies in addressing the supply of illegal drugs in Scotland. Further understanding the flows of drugs through the post could provide a better estimate of the overall effects of programmes intended to reduce problem drug use in Scotland by improving the accuracy of the necessary outcome measure.

In future this research will aim to explore:

  • Are drug parcel seizures and controlled parcel deliveries associated with lower prevalence of recent drug use, medical admissions and deaths among the drug using population within local communities?
  • Can intercepted packages data be used in conjunction with Police Scotland data and Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics to improve estimation of the level of illegal drug use in an area?

Data this research aims to link and analyse

  • National Crime Agency 'Controlled Deliveries' data

Potential to link this dataset with the following for further work:

  • SMR25: Scottish Drugs Misuse Database
  • SMR01: Hospital inpatients and day case records
  • Deaths records
  • Police Scotland datazone level crime data

Research team

Dr Ben MatthewsDr Ana MoralesProfessor Susan McVie, Dr Fernando Pantoja and Professor Chris Dibben, University of Edinburgh, Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research.

Publications and outputs

May 2020 - Understanding the geography of cryptomarkets using administrative data on postal drug deliveries in Scotland: Data Insights

June 2020 - Postal delivery of illegal consignments into Scotland: Dataset description

January 2021 - Using data to classify the likely ‘motivation’ of online drug purchasers: Data Insights

February 2021 - Using data to support law enforcement decision making around illegal drug parcels: Data Insights

February 2021 - Pre-print European Journal of Criminology

March 2021 - Daily Record: Web dealers use post to deal cocaine and ecstasy across Scotland

March 2021 - Article in European Journal of Criminology

When publications or outputs are available, they will be shared here. For more information about this project, please contact us.

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