Many people enjoy taking drugs and they have a variety of reasons for doing so. Some like to ingest stimulants to power through a heavy workload or go wild at a rave. Some drink alcohol as a social lubricant to boost confidence. Others enjoy smoking a joint to relax or medicate, while others still enjoy microdosing magic mushrooms in attempt to boost cognitive function.

The one commonality between most of these substances is their illegal status in many countries across the world. Due to these classifications, users must rely on drug dealers and underground production facilities to obtain products that are usually impure and possibly dangerous. For whatever reason people choose to use drugs, it certainly is an interesting domain of study. The Global Drug Survey 2017 was conducted to probe the drug habits of the world. Previous surveys have been conducted in the years 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

DATA COLLECTION

This survey was created with the primary intention of collecting data from drug users, which could then be compiled and disseminated in a meaningful way, regardless of a drug’s legal status. This is in effort to make drug use safer by promoting an honest conversation.

The survey was vast in size and collected data from 119,846 individuals from a total of 50 countries. The countries with the largest respondents included Germany, Denmark, USA, Switzerland, UK, Australia, Canada, Austria and New Zealand. The team behind the project consisted of experts within the fields of medicine, toxicology, public health, psychology, chemistry, public policy, criminology, sociology, harm reduction and addiction.

Although the survey did have its limitations in terms of response bias and cross-country comparison, it did yield some intriguing results. The Global Drug Survey 2017 accrued some rich data that can be analysed to determine the health effects of drugs and alcohol across a specific country or region. The data also serve as a basis for analysing the dynamic between personal decision making and drug use, as well as patterns of use, harm, health and well-being among consumers.

Drug Survey Global consume

PARTICIPANTS

Before we get into some of the more interesting and novel findings produced by the Global Drug Survey 2017, let’s first take a look at who is responsible for contributing these data.

Out of all respondents, 32 percent were female, making up a total of 36,931 individuals. On the other hand, 68 percent were male, making up 78,592 individuals. 90.5 percent of these people where White, 3.2 percent were Mixed, 0.4 percent were Asian (Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi), 0.3 percent were Black African/Black Caribbean, 2.8 percent were Hispanic Latino, 0.4 percent were SE Asian, 1.8 percent were Other, 0.2 percent were Aboriginal, 0.2 percent were Native American and 0.2 percent were Black American.

The mean age of the group was 29.1 years of age. 46.7 percent were less than 25 years of age. 29 percent were between 25 and 34 years of age. 24.3 percent of the group were over the age of 35. 64.8 percent of the group were employed, 29.5 percent were students and 41.8 percent had a university degree or completed a higher level of education.

Drug use among the group was quite varied, with huge numbers using alcohol, cannabis, tobacco and caffeine. Other widely-used drugs, used by less than half the group, included MDMA, cocaine, magic mushrooms, amphetamines, LSD and nitrous. Some of the least used drugs included DMT, opium, kava, kratom and heroin.

Now that we have a clear idea of the demographic who took part in the Global Drug Survey 2017 and the variety of drugs examined, let’s look at some specific findings.

EMERGENCY MEDICAL TREATMENT

Some of the data collected by the survey was used to produce a global comparison observing the rates of emergency medical treatment sought after using specific drugs. These data can tell us which drugs are potentially more dangerous, or at least which are used more recklessly. Although there are many variables at play when it comes to dangerous drug use, the results still paint a compelling picture.

Methamphetamine was found to be the drug responsible for the most emergency medical visits, followed closely by synthetic cannabis and alcohol. Cannabis itself was responsible for the second fewest emergency room visits, with 0.6 percent of people seeking treatment after consuming. Although cannabis has very few dangers associated with its use, perhaps some individuals sought treatment as a response to the psychological effects of a high.

At the very bottom of the list was magic mushrooms, with only 0.2 percent of people requiring emergency treatment for it in the past year. However, it must be considered that mushrooms are used far less frequently than cannabis and, when used in the wrong setting or combined with other substances, may cause danger to the user.

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CANNABIS USE

The Global Drug Survey 2017 looked at cannabis in depth. It was found that a majority of cannabis users within the group had used the substance at least 51 to 300+ times within the past 12 months. The minority of users had taken cannabis between 1 to 50 times within the past 12 months.

WAKE AND BAKE

The method of wake and bake was also explored within the survey. This term refers to using cannabis within close proximity to waking up. The survey looked at those who smoked a joint within 5 minutes to 1 hour of waking. A massive 21.9 percent of users from the USA stated that they engaged in a wake and bake, followed closely by 18.4 percent of users from Mexico. Over 12 percent of users from Greece, Canada, Brazil, Portugal, Scotland, Norway and Finland also used cannabis as a way to start their day.

METHOD OF CANNABIS USE

The survey also asked cannabis users which method they preferred when ingesting the substance. A huge majority totaling 71.7 percent claimed to prefer smoking a joint as their primary method of consumption. Out of the joint smokers, 84.3 preferred to smoke their weed mixed with tobacco. Smoking out of a bong or water pipe was the second most used method, followed by pipes, vapes, blunts and then edibles.

It turns out that many countries like to use tobacco with their cannabis, perhaps due to the combined effects of THC and nicotine, or because tobacco encourages a smooth-burning joint. Over 90 percent of smokers from Italy, Greece, Hungary, Denmark and Switzerland favour this method of intake. Over 80 percent of smokers from Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, France, Austria, Germany, Ireland and Spain enjoy adding tobacco to their smoke. The USA, however, landed on the other end of the spectrum, with only 8 percent of smokers infusing tobacco with their weed.

CONTROL OF CANNABIS

As well as looking into the habits of cannabis users, the survey also explored the participants’ political and economic views in terms of who they believed should control and sell the cannabis supply. It was discovered that only 17 percent of the group preferred to see the government regulate the cannabis market.

This small statistic is understandable, especially considering the role many world governments played in fiercely prohibiting the substance and punishing users. 38 percent of the group claimed they would prefer to see not-for-profit organisations regulate the market. 45 percent argued that they would like to see private companies regulate the market, perhaps because it encourages an economic environment that leads to competition, innovation and ultimately the availability of better quality products.

WHO HAS VAPED WHAT?

The Global Drug Survey 2017 looked at the use of vaping among drug users, but not just for cannabis. Although cannabis was the most commonly used substance in this category, many other drugs were also reportedly used in vaporisers as well.

83.8 of vape users employed the device to consume herbal cannabis. Over 20 percent used vapes to ingest cannabis resin, cannabis oil and cannabis concentrate. 5.5 percent used vapes to ingest the psychoactive drug DMT, while 0.6 percent vaped heroin, 0.4 percent vaped MDMA and 0.2 percent used vapes to ingest ketamine.

MAGIC MUSHROOMS

The survey looked into the use of magic mushrooms and how they were obtained. Concerning users in Colombia, 74 percent claimed to hand pick their own supply. In New Zealand, 50 percent of mushroom users picked their own. In Norway, 39.2 picked their own, whereas 8.33 percent grew their own stash. In the United Kingdom, 22.9 percent picked their own mushrooms and 6.72 percent grew their own.

PSYCHEDELICS

Another section of the survey examined the use of psychedelic drugs such as Peyote, Ayahuasca, LSD, Psilocybin and DMT. The survey inquired as to the motivation behind taking these substances. 91.6 percent stated that their use stemmed from curiosity. 86.5 percent of users sought mind expansion and 84.3 percent hoped to learn more about themselves.

Over 70 percent of users desired a deeper understanding of the world and unusual experiences. 67.5 percent of users did so recreationally and 59.9 percent wanted to increase spiritual understanding. Less than 40 percent of users wanted to deal with emotional issues and stress, increase sexual feelings, or “escape” from life.

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CRYPTOMARKETS

Another area of exploration the survey ventured into was the use of cryptomarkets and cryptocurrencies to purchase drugs online, often anonymously. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin can be used to transfer value over the internet worldwide and with very low transaction fees. For this reason, they are often used to purchase drugs.

The authors of the survey publication state, “Darknet markets or cryptomarkets have now been operating for 6 years (since the launch of Silk Road in February 2011). In the dark or hidden web, site owners, vendors and buyers are able to remain relatively anonymous as their IP addresses are masked. Purchases are made using the decentralised virtual currency Bitcoin, which can also be used relatively anonymously.”

“Three years after the demise of Silk Road, there is still volatility in the crypto ecosystem: exit scams, where market owners close the market unexpectedly and steal the funds, have become commonplace. Despite disruptions from law enforcement efforts and scams, the size and scale of darknet markets for drugs continues to grow. At the time of the survey there were over 20 functioning markets according to dnstats.net.”

41.4 percent of users from Finland claimed to have purchased drugs from darknet markets in the last 12 months. Over 20 percent from Scotland, Norway, Sweden and Poland have done the same. Darknet purchases are rising quite sharply in both the UK and Ireland.

The drugs most purchased in these exchanges were MDMA, cannabis and LSD.

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