The available data for drug-related trends in the UK, and around the world, is extremely lacking. Crime surveys and national statistics have a narrow scope due to the limited data which they collect. Enter the Global Drug Survey (GDS), which collects data directly from people who have experience with drugs and which has become an invaluable resource for tracking trends in drug use.
Global Drug Survey launched its 10th anniversary survey a few weeks ago. Already over 30,000 people from around the world have taken time out to reflect on their year and share how their use of alcohol and other drugs has evolved over the last, very strange 12 months.
Unlike most drug-related surveys, the Global Drug Survey team understand the rational view that drug use is part of people’s wider life. That they can be used to bring joy and connection for some, but can also cause complex problems and harm. For many, current drug regulation compounds that risk, while evidence-based drug policy could help reduce it. GDS is building a vital evidence base by collecting data to build an understanding of the way people use drugs in order to support the development and delivery of better treatments and policy. Being independent and self-funded they can address issues that are relevant to people who use drugs and are able to share the findings free from the constraints of government and research grants. They are also more able to respond to changes in trends to focus on areas of current population interest and public health need as they arise. GDS2022 is currently seeking participants and aims to bring the total number of GDS participants, since inception, to 1 million.
So what’s on offer this year? Why should you give up 20 minutes of your day to the Global Drug Survey?
The impact of drug laws on people’s use of drugs
Many governments retain faith in outdated and unhelpful drug policies in the belief the threat of criminal sanctions and punishment deter people from using drugs. It’s a pretty big call and one that is not supported by international evidence when you look at the relationship between rates of population use and harm. To answer the crucial question as to whether drug laws deter drug use GDS2022 is asking people how drug laws in their own country have influenced their decision to use drugs, not use drugs or stop using drugs. It will also explore opinions on rates of use, public health harm and the economy of different approaches to drug regulation as well as asking how falling foul of current drug laws have impacted people’s lives. Data can provide evidence that can help change drug laws for the better.
What would it take to get people to stop rolling joints with tobacco?
Almost 70% of people who use cannabis smoke it with tobacco, but one can enjoy cannabis without tobacco. New technologies and preparations make it easier than ever to do so and adopt non-smoking routes of use. But changing culture and rituals around drug use is bloody hard. So GDS2022 is asking what it would take to give up the evil weed (tobacco) and enjoy cannabis with burning it. Answering this question would be a massive public health win, reducing dependence and lung health harms.
Low/zero alcohol beverages
Alcohol kills millions each year while generating vast profits for private companies. As people become more aware of the harms and the alcohol industry diversifies to capture health-conscious consumers there is a large market appearing offering low or no alcohol beverages. Exactly who these products appeal to and why and whether they help people drink less is another focus for GDS2022 this year.
The GDS2022 is also collecting data from around the world on the prevalence of suspected drunk spiking. Asking where people people, why they thought they had been spiked and whether they reported, we use our data to inform policy and education campaigns. For now we would ask men in particular to play their part and step up, call their ‘mates’ out and ensure that taking advantage of those who are intoxicated is branded as totally unacceptable they speak up to bring about change.
Festivals and parties during COVID
Going out is fun! Clubbing, festivals, gigs are the lifeblood for many. And COVID cut that out for many. How did people adapt, what did they do instead and how did their behaviours change when they had the chance to play again is what GDS2022 is aiming to find out.
Sex and psychedelics
It’s a thing. Honestly. Maybe not top of the list activities when you think of psychedelics and not necessarily the best drug to enhance sex but who knows. From tweaking sensuality and emotions to breaking down taboos and dealing with past traumas the interplay is likely to be complex. But fascinating! GDS2022 wants to know about your experiences of sex on psychedelics.
Perhaps not getting as much attention on the media as many other psychedelics but mescaline has a history and tradition that is uniquely appealing for many. Requiring patience, preparation and a strong constitution GDS2022 is exploring this spikey succulent for the first time. Help us understand who uses it, why and how?
The Global Drug Survey is now a vital data source, tracking trends that are missing from national statistics. Please take part and help us understand global drug trends. It’s anonymous, confidential, and takes less than 20mins.