There’s not enough evidence to say it’s as easy to buy drugs as pizza in the UK

10 March 2020
What was claimed

A government review warns it is almost as easy to buy some drugs as it is to buy pizza.

Our verdict

There is not enough evidence for this claim, which does not appear in the review itself. The Global Drug Survey compared delivery times of cocaine and pizza internationally in 2018 and found 30% of people could get cocaine in under 30 minutes while only 16.5% of people said they could get a pizza delivered in that time. Figures to make this comparison for the UK aren’t available.

“Drugs are so widely available they are as easy to buy as pizzas, reveals government review.”

The Telegraph, 27 February 2020

“Getting drugs in Britain almost easier than ordering pizza, study warns.”

The Daily Star, 27 February 2020

There is not enough evidence to back up the claim that it is as easy to buy some drugs as it is to buy a pizza.

Launching phase one of a Home Office review into drug use at the UK Drugs Summit in Glasgow on 27 February, Dame Carol Black warned of the “abundant supply” of drugs coming into the UK saying:

“It’s purer, it’s more available, you can buy whichever drug you want almost anywhere.

“It wouldn’t be too far to go to say it’s almost for some drugs as easy as getting your pizza.”

Multiple news outlets ran stories based on Dame Carol’s comments , with some  —The Telegraph and The Daily Star—incorrectly attributing them to the review itself, which was published on 28 February.

Dame Carol confirmed to Full Fact that she was referring to the comparative delivery times of pizza and drugs, both of which she said can be delivered in around 30 minutes.  

After asking for clarification on where this data came from, Full Fact was pointed to a study into crack cocaine use, published in March last year by the Home Office and Public Health England, which interviewed drug treatment workers, service users and police officers.

The study said these groups all agreed crack was “more widely available” now than it had been in the past and described the fast delivery as “quicker than a pizza”, although it seems based on anecdotal evidence and made no mention of 30 minutes delivery time.

Data on the relative delivery times of cocaine and pizza orders has previously been collected by the Global Drug Survey.

The survey most recently collected this data in 2018, when it asked 15,000 cocaine users around the world whether they could get cocaine delivered in under 30 minutes, and whether they could get a pizza delivered in the same time. This sounds similar to the figures provided to us by Dame Carol, but they don’t break down to a UK-only level.

The global results revealed 30% could get cocaine in 30 minutes or less, while just 16.5% said the same about pizza. In the UK, 83% of respondents said they could get cocaine on the day it was ordered, with 37% saying it would be delivered in 30 minutes or less. However, the survey did not break down pizza delivery-time by country, so no specific UK comparison can be done. We’ve looked at this before.

The 2019 Global Drug Survey found that, internationally, 61.7% of cocaine-using participants had cocaine delivered on the same day and 30% of those reported waiting no more than 30 minutes, but it did not collect data on pizza.

The report said: “We also look at speed for delivery and update our work from last year – though we won’t be mentioning pizzas for a while.”

Professor Adam Winstock, founder and CEO of the Global Drug Survey, told Full Fact the organisation had decided not to compare to pizza again as there are “other things to focus on that we consider more important than pizza to address our primary mission of reducing drug-related harm—more important than pizza headlines.”

No other comparisons between pizza and drug delivery have been done that we’re aware of. Without any updated figures, or specific break-downs about pizza delivery time in the UK, there is not enough evidence to show that it is as easy to get some drugs as it is to get pizza.

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