2018 Global Drug Survey | Alcohol remains the most harmful drug for acute risk


The 2018 Global Drug Survey researched the drug-taking habits of 130,000 people across 44 countries. Here we take a look at some of the key findings from the survey:

Pizza & cocaine delivery

The survey asked 15,000 cocaine users from around the world whether it was quicker to get a gram of cocaine delivered or a pizza. Overall, 30% of respondents said they could get cocaine delivered in 30 minutes or less, compared to only 16.5% who could get a pizza delivered in the same time.

Easy access and higher purity are likely to lead to escalating use and harms among people.

Alcohol consumption

Women under 25 years of age have particularly poor knowledge of the health risks associated with alcohol use, according to the 2018 Global Drug Survey.

Data shows that 65% of females under 25 polled did not know that drinking less alcohol reduces the risk of seven different types of cancer – including mouth, upper throat, oesophageal, breast and bowel cancers.

At the population level, alcohol was found to be the most harmful drug when it comes to acute risk, both to the individual themselves and those around them. Alcohol is responsible for 4% of the world's global burden of disease and is implicated in at least 60 health conditions, most and foremost cancer and heart disease.

Australia & drug use

It was also revealed that of the Australian's surveyed, 37.8% claimed they had a desire to reduce their alcohol consumption, and 12.8% stated that they wanted help and support to reduce their drinking.

Australia ranked third highest when it came to seeking emergency medical treatment in the last 12 months, behind Scotland and Norway but ahead of the USA, England, New Zealand and many other countries.

In terms of MDMA use, Australia ranked 3rd – behind Brazil and France. However, Australia was ranked 1st for the highest number of pills consumed on a single occasion.

Australians are also paying a lot for their drugs. Australia ranked second most expensive for a gram of cocaine at $309 with New Zealand coming in first at $351.

Most problematic illicit drugs

Methamphetamine and heroin are regarded as the most problematic of all illicit drugs with high rates of physical and social harms. Methamphetamine is also one of the most easily manufactured, widely distributed and cheapest stimulant drugs in the world.

The Dark Net

According to the survey, the dark net is an increasingly common source of illicit and licit drugs. MDMA, followed by cannabis, LSD and new psychoactive substances (NPS) are the most commonly purchased drugs on the dark net, with notable increases in rates for cannabis and LSD over the last four years, however there has been a decline in NPS purchase.

The survey also found that many people start using drugs in their late teens. For first time users of MDMA across the globe, 61% claim that they first tried the drug with close friends and 56.8% did not have someone to look after them during their experience.

There was a high rate (0.5%) of emergency medical treatment linked with first time use of MDMA which, according to the authors of the survey, highlights the importance of providing younger people with good quality harm reduction before they start using drugs.

First-time drug use

The study also found that the majority of drug users surveyed did not pay for their drugs on their first trip. Some 50% of first timers did not pay for their first dose of MDMA, 71.5% did not pay for their first line of cocaine and 66% got their first LSD trip for free.

Whilst many first-timers tried drugs with close friends, many did not have someone to look after them during their experience.

Information is key to harm minimisation

Professor Adam Winstock, consultant psychiatrist, addiction medicine specialist and founder & CEO of The Global Drug Survey commented: "Our findings suggest there is a need to engage people who use drugs in honest conversations about drug use. Zero tolerance approaches do not allow governments to optimise public health policies or health promotion approaches.

"People who use drugs are interested in their own health and wellbeing and that of their friends and communities. We need to harness the expertise and interest of the drug using community to help them stay safe, without ideological barriers that prevent the adoption of evidence-based drug policies."

Sir Professor Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance also commented on the survey. He said: "People just do not know about key health issues like the link between alcohol and cancer that might well change their behaviour and improve public health."

For more findings from the 2018 Global Drug Survey visit: www.globaldrugsurvey.com

To learn more about some of the most commonly used drugs affecting Australians right now, check out our A-Z Drug Listing.

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