What to Know About Different Countries' Drug Scenes, According to Locals

People in the US, Indonesia, Australia and Europe tell us what's in, what's out and what will get you arrested.
Man with key dipped in drugs
Photo: Christian Filardo

British drug culture is a few things: Ketamine served up at all times of the night; incessant, continent-beating cocaine use, and arguably quite shit weed. But there are other things, too – speed isn’t a huge taboo thing here, nor is nos, MDMA or psychedelics. 


But you know what, meth isn’t at all accepted or commonplace in the UK, nor would it be seen as a chill thing to do. And yet in Australia, my perception is it’s entirely chill. And how about America – how do they view our love of ket? 

I may be making that all up. But we’re looking to answer all those questions and more, so we figured we’d drop a line to our international VICE colleagues to get a read of the cultural differences between the British and foreign drug scenes. Some are speaking anonymously to preserve their privacy, for obvious reasons.


VICE: How would you describe the Australian drug scene – what are the popular drugs at the moment? 
Arielle, 28, VICE Australia:
The best way I would describe the Australian drugs scene is “depraved”. We have some of the shittest coke in the entire world and it is so expensive. It's like AU$300-$400 (£156-£208) for a gram, and yet people still will do it. Ketamine is probably the most popular drug at the moment. People usually get like 50 bags [costing AU$50, or £30]. And then caps [of MDMA], MDMA, pills, they’re all about AU$30 (£16). If you buy in bulk then they're like AU$20-30 (£10-£16).

The prevailing thing about the drug scene here is a lot of our drugs are shit – you can't really trust anything, except for MDMA. I guess when that's good, you can tell. But everything is cut with meth. Dexies [AKA dextroamphetamine] are really popular for party drugs as well – also, just for life. They’re like AU$5-$10 (£3-£5). People will take one or two dexies in a night – people will also give you dexies for free, like it's this sort of lucky thing. Dexies are a great alternative to cocaine. I think that's why they're so popular – similar to speed. Hallucinogens are also pretty popular. Mushies are basically one of the only things you can bank on as going to be good. Mushies and acid. 


Crystal meth is not really a thing in the UK, nor are like, opioid pills. What are the taboo/unpopular drugs in Australia?
Outside of the partying scene, I think the highest drug per capita in Australia is meth [AKA ice]. We have a huge ice problem in Australia. It's always been like that – it's always been more meth than heroin. Opioids are pretty gnarly – people obviously do do them, but they're not as popular. Same with xanies. For people who are like really into like the electronic music scene, there is like a bit of GHB, and there's a bit of PCP as well. 

What's the deal with cigarettes and vapes in Australia? We've just banned disposables here.
Nicotine vapes are technically banned in Australia – the importation and sale of them – since January 1st. You can still buy vapes at basically any convenience store. They can range in price from like $20-$40. Vapes that are imported into Australia are way more potent than the ones that you get overseas.

Ciggies are expensive as fuck. People do smoke – you can buy cheap imports like Taylor's from a lot of tobacconists; you can buy like a $16 deck of Marlboros, for instance. But if you're buying them from a supermarket or something, it's going to be like $40 for a pack of 20s, which is crazy. 


The Netherlands

VICE: What are the popular, most common drugs in Amsterdam?
Anonymous staffer, VICE Benelux:
Anything goes here. Of course, weed is very much accepted. I don't think the locals consume as much as the locals-locals [i.e. non-locals]. But you see every walk of life, women, men, all of it going into a shop. So I think that just sort of eases everyone up. 

Mushroom drops are becoming really popular and now they're really accessible. The dealers here have menus, they have everything, as opposed to in London, where you’re often buying your stuff from your coke dealer, or your mandy dealer, or maybe one of them mixes it up a little bit. There’s a lot of MDMA, and pills are actually really accessible as well.

Is coke a big one in Amsterdam like it is in the UK?
Coke is everywhere. It’s really accessible. It's quite surprising: You go to techno raves – not all of them, but some of them – and people are so coked up. You almost feel like maybe younger people are also accessing it now, like in a public space. You sort of know everyone is experiencing cocaine right now – it feels very intense. 

Is ketamine popular?
Yes, very. Especially in raves, especially in big gigs. Instead of snorting it, people also put it in their water, a bit like MDMA.


VICE: What do you think about the great British habit of railing ket or drinking ten beers and getting coke on a Thursday? What might be the Canadian analogue to that?
Anonymous staffer, VICE Canada:
That's a lot of beer but getting hammered on a Thursday is pretty common – it's basically the new Friday. I'd say having a bunch of beer and getting coke on a Thursday would be pretty typical in a city like Toronto. 

What are the popular drugs at the moment, and how much are they?
Weed and booze and cocaine are still the holy trinity, but lately, there's been a lot more people microdosing mushrooms at parties. You can buy them online really easily or in stores, which are illegal but still operate. They sell packs of shroom gummies for CA$30-$60 (£18-£35). A lot of people still do MDMA for parties/dancing. 


What are the taboo or unpopular drugs?
More people do ketamine now, but it's nowhere near as popular as in Europe. Some people are scared to do cocaine because they're worried it's going to be contaminated with fentanyl. The most stigmatised drugs are street opioids, which are mostly fentanyl, as well as meth and crack. 

Are there drug scene differences between Canada and the US?
It's easier to get good weed and shrooms for cheaper in Canada – there tends to be a lot more variety, partially because weed is legal in Canada. It's easier to buy loose cigarettes in the US, which is nice if you're drunk. Also, more people seem to do ketamine recreationally in New York, or combine coke and ketamine than anywhere I've seen in Canada. 


VICE: What are the typical, popular drugs people use in Indonesia at the moment?
Reno Surya, VICE APAC:
Weed and meth are the most prominent drugs because they’re the most affordable – people who actively consume them mostly buy them collectively and even share them. According to research from 2022, 41.4 percent of drug users in Indonesia consume weed daily, while 25.7 percent are addicted to meth. The rest mostly consume cheap drugs like Trihexyphenidyl HCl [an antispasmodic known as “double L” or the “catfish pill”] and nipam [a benzodiazepine]. For some of the middle-class youth, ecstasy, which in Indonesia is mostly known as inex, is popular.

Is drug use different in different areas of the country, i.e. Bali compared to other parts?
I think so. If you live in Sumatra and Kalimantan, you could access meth easily because smugglers cross the border between Indonesia and Malaysia. In Bali you can find ecstasy and weed easily and they’re both popular. On Madura Island, many Ustadz (Islamic scholars) use meth to boost up their energy to recite the holy Quran. They will stay awake for around two to three days and focus on reciting the Quran while they're high. 


What are the taboo drugs in Indonesia?
The Indonesian government has a plan to label the kratom leaf as an illegal drug, and more people are going to be detained in prison because of this. Poor children here sniff glue for recreational purposes, and some of them combine it with dextromethorphan [a cough medicine].

What is the legal status of recreational drugs in Indonesia, and what impact does that have on the general “drug scene”?
Illegal. Everything that is suspected of having an addictive effect is banned by the government. The result is 70 percent of our overpopulated prisons are filled with mild drug users. Mostly they’re detained because they have some small amount – less than a gram – of weed. To reduce criminality, the government should legalise marijuana, even if only for those who need it for medical purposes. 


VICE: How would you describe the US drug scene – what are the popular drugs at the moment?
Magdalene Taylor, 27, VICE US:
Cocaine is the most popular drug of the US besides weed, of course, which, for better or worse, has become the substance de jure here. There's less and less of a culture of young people going out – I think a lot of people just stay in and smoke weed, which is kind of boring. In New York, there's probably a weed shop on every single block in my neighbourhood. Some are right next door to each other or across the street from each other. Cocaine is definitely a big one in New York, though there's been a lot of anxiety about it recently because of fentanyl issues.

What are the taboo drugs?
I would say that opiates in general are a bit more taboo, not done, at least in in the party circuit. Opiate overdoses are like the number one accidental death in young people in the United States – it's obviously a huge problem. Heroin in any form, whether it be snorted or smoked or injected, is taboo. Needle drugs in general are taboo – you don't see a lot of people doing that recreationally. Even that period of time, they call it the “xandemic”, where people were recreationally doing a lot of Xanax, doing a lot of benzos, that is also not quite as popular as it was before, though it's still very big – painkillers as well. But in the nightlife space, you're not doing those types of drugs, you're doing cocaine or you're doing ketamine, maybe you're smoking a joint. 

Is there a difference in attitude between British and American drug users?
Here, ketamine is sort of an art hoe type of drug – a drug used by whatever group of people we might still call hipsters. Very like, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Brooklyn, which is where I live. That type of alternative person is more apt to use ketamine, whereas my idea of a ketamine user in the UK is much broader. Now, it wouldn't be totally unheard of at all for somebody to pull out a bag of K in a bar bathroom in the same way that somebody might do with cocaine. But I think that sort of thing is more common in the UK.